There has been a lot of debate around small children and the role they play in the spread of Covid-19…

With earlier studies suggesting that children do not contribute much to the spread of coronavirus, new studies are now showing that children could be capable of spreading infection.

According to the South African Paediatric Association, children without underlying conditions are less likely to get sick if infected by the virus or will show milder symptoms such as low-grade fever, fatigue, and cough compared to adults.

“As the saying goes, rather be safe than sorry. While the debate goes on there are many parents who find themselves in a catch twenty-two situation, having to go back to the office or being an essential worker and having to make sure their young children are taken care of in a safe environment,” says Emma Corder, Managing Director of industrial cleaning products manufacturer Industroclean.

So, what are the steps that need to be taken to make sure that the entire family stays safe during these times?

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Corder says regardless of the current debate about the effects that the virus can have on younger children, the issue of hygiene in childcare facilities has been topical long before the pandemic arrived on our shores. Anyone that is concerned about the health and safety and wellbeing of children, parents and staff members would agree that the most important step is to reduce the spread of germs and to clean throughout the day.

For Parents:

“Before making the decision to send your child to back to childcare facilities, talk to your paediatrician or family doctor. We can help you make the best choice based on your child’s medical and immunisation history, your family circumstances, and by checking that your child’s growth and development is on track,” says Western Cape based paediatrician Dr Tamryn Phelps.

She adds that making frequent hand washing a norm in your household is a must, as children learn by example.

Next is connecting with the caregiver: you want to be comfortable with how the centre plans to clean and disinfect, screen children and staff for symptoms, and handle illness.

For Playschools:

Creating a clean and hygienically safe play centre that hosts very young children with little understanding on following instructions and who spend more time on the floor, will require you to clean and disinfect open spaces:

  • Develop your plan.
  • Implement your plan.
  • Maintain and revise your plan.

It is also key for teachers and caregivers to know the difference between cleaning, disinfecting and sanitizing, when it comes to creating a clean and safe home and play centre.

Cleaning involves the physical removal of dirt, germs and debris by scrubbing with soap or detergent and water. Disinfecting and sanitizing, on the other hand, involves the application of a recommended product cleaner that specifies that it kills 99.9% of germs.

What are the correct or appropriate products to use in the workplace and around the home, and does this differ when you are cleaning a play centre area?

“The overuse of bleach can also have side effects on children. Most bleach products remain on surfaces and may emit fumes if not used correctly, also bringing with it the risk of possibly causing respiratory illness. This means it is critical that you follow the precise instructions on how to dilute and use the chemicals,” explains Corder.

It should also be taken into account that cleaning and sanitising will be done more frequently, so plan accordingly, and ensure staff including the kitchen staff undergo comprehensive training on the correct procedures to be followed.

Remember these best cleaning practices:

  • Prepare for cleaning and disinfecting.
    • Correct PPE for cleaning.
    • Use all chemicals correctly.
    • Cleaning equipment must be clean.
  • Do the Job
    • Clean from top to bottom.
    • For normal cleaning use the spray and wipe method.
    • Colour code all cleaning materials to prevent cross contamination.
  • End of Task
    • Dispose of dirty water and waste according to safe procedures.
    • Wash and dry all equipment before storing it in a clean space.
    • Dispose of all PPE wear before washing up.
  • Play Areas:
    • Identify detergents best suited for play area equipment. Consult manuals that came with the play area equipment for information on how to best care for it.
    • Outdoor playground equipment should be pressure washed at least once quarterly, to get rid of grime that builds up, especially on equipment like swings and monkey bars.

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