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Childhood Health: Life in a 'Germ Factory'

Experts say caregivers should be trained in ways to clean, sanitize and disinfect. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

A mother in Tamil Nadu, India, recently had a question for our new series on children and parenting. This woman in Tuticorin has a son who is almost three years old. He attends a pre-kindergarten school. She wonders why he often suffers from a blocked or leaky nose and a cough. Along with these, he gets a temperature of thirty-eight and three-tenths degrees Celsius.

Of course, the only advice we can give our listeners is to ask a medical professional about any conditions. But this is a good chance to talk about young children in group settings. There is a reason why schools and child care centers are known as germ factories.

Children can come in contact with all sorts of bacteria, viruses and other organisms as they share toys, toilets and towels. Some will make them sick, others are harmless.

Good hand washing is an important way to reduce the spread of infections. Caregivers should also be trained in ways to clean, sanitize and disinfect. The Web site for the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care explains the differences.

This government-financed center is part of the University of Colorado in Denver. It says parents should look around child care centers. Make sure toys, furniture and other equipment are clean and in good condition. Not only that, ask how often things get cleaned -- there should be an established program.

The experts in Colorado say parents should not take sick children to day care if they might infect others. They also advise child care operators to keep a sick child away from healthy children whenever possible.

Some places are not equipped to deal with a sick child.

Many day care centers and schools require children to be without fever for at least twenty-four hours before they can come back.

Being in a "germ factory" is not necessarily all bad. Some experts believe that children exposed early to common germs develop a greater resistance to them when they reach school age.

Next week, we are going to continue talking about childhood health. If you have a general question, send it to And please be sure to tell us who you are and where you are writing from.

And that's the Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. Our reports -- and a link to the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care -- are at I'm Faith Lapidus.