Infection Control

Public Health helps child care providers provide safe, healthy environments for kids. If you have a licensed child care centre, we’ll work with you to meet the health and safety licensing required by the Ministry.

We inspect all licensed child care centres and review infection control practices (e.g., cleaning and disinfection, diapering and toileting, animal handling) as well as safe food handling practices. We also respond to complaints and outbreaks at child care centres, and work to prevent illness and minimize the spread of illness within the centres.

You can decrease the risk of spreading infections at your centre by following recommended practices in these areas:

  • Cleaning and disinfection
  • Hand hygiene
  • Using gloves
  • Diapering and toileting
  • Handling animals
  • Sensory play and crafts

Cleaning and disinfection

It is important to keep surfaces and toys within the child care centre clean to stop the spread of illness. Cleaning is the physical removal of dirt and germs from a surface by wiping or scrubbing, while disinfection kills germs using a chemical solution such as accelerated hydrogen peroxide or bleach and water.

Tips to remember:

  • Not all products are equal: some are cleaners only, some are disinfectants only, and some can be used for both. Review the label and ingredients to figure out what your product can be used for.
  • A bleach and water solution is only a disinfectant. If this is used within your centre, all surfaces must first be cleaned with soap and water, rinsed, and then have the bleach and water solution applied.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for product use (e.g., how long it must stay wet on a surface, mixing, and safety instructions).
  • Do not mix bleach with ammonia-based products as a dangerous and toxic gas can form. Bleach can only be mixed with water.
  • We highly recommended you use a product effective against norovirus (e.g., accelerated hydrogen peroxide).
  • Have a schedule for cleaning and disinfecting toys (PDF, 1 page, 286 kb) within the centre.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces regularly to stop the spread of germs within the centre. High-touch surfaces can include things like door knobs, light switches, toys, washrooms, sensory bins etc.
  • Use disposable paper towels or single-use towels to wipe surfaces.
  • Ensure all chemicals are labelled and stored out of children’s reach.
  • Take precautions when cleaning a blood spill or other body fluids (PDF, 2 pages, 493 kb) like feces or vomit.

Hand hygiene

Handwashing is the best way to stop the spread of germs that can make you sick. Hands can spread about 80% of infectious diseases. It is important to wash your hands after you:

  • Use the washroom, help a child use the toilet, or change a diaper
  • Help a child to blow their nose or blow your own nose
  • Cough or sneeze
  • Care for an ill person
  • Handle animals or animal waste
  • Come in from playing outside
  • Handle garbage

In order to prevent illness from spreading within the child care centre, staff can teach children to wash their hands with soap and water for 15 seconds. You can sing the ABCs, Twinkle Twinkle, or another song to encourage children to wash their hands.

Other important tips to remember:

  • Do not refill or top up soap containers. Once the container is empty, clean the container, then refill or discard and replace.
  • Use liquid soap instead of bar soap. Bar soap is not recommended because it can harbour germs that can be spread person-to-person.

Hand sanitizer can be used for handwashing if hands are not visibly soiled/dirty.

  • Ensure that children are supervised while using hand sanitizer. They should avoid touching their eyes/nose/mouth until hands are dry.
  • Keep hand sanitizer out of children’s reach when not in use.
  • Hand sanitizers that do not contain alcohol are not recommended as the chemical used in these products are not effective against common germs including the common cold (rhinovirus) and norovirus (vomiting and diarrhea).
  • Check to make sure the hand sanitizer has at least 60-70% alcohol content.            

Using gloves

Wash your hands before and after wearing gloves as your hands can become contaminated when taking the gloves off. Gloves are single-use and task specific. Gloves must not be reused or worn from task-to-task.

Tips to remember:

  • Thin gloves often used for food preparation should not be used when changing diapers.
  • Some individuals may have allergies to latex. Consider using non-latex gloves if staff have identified an allergy.

Disposable gloves are not a substitute for washing your hands. Use gloves when you:

  • Have dermatitis, cuts or open sores on your hands
  • May be exposed to blood, vomit, feces or other body fluids

Diapering and toileting

When you change diapers or assist a child with toileting, there is a high risk of spreading germs to others via surfaces or unwashed hands. Make sure you:

  • Wash the child’s hands and your hands after changing the diaper
  • Clean and disinfect the change table/mat after each use
  • Designate an area for changing diapers; do not change diapers where food is served/prepared
  • Follow diapering (PDF, 1 page, 308 kb) and toileting (PDF, 1 page, 307 kb) procedures
  • If cloth diapers are used, have an infection control policy and procedure in place for the handling and use of cloth diapers. Refer to the Cloth Diapers: Infection Control Considerations for more information
  • Wear gloves when in contact with body fluids or blood
  • Make sure gloves are used only once and then thrown out
  • Ensure any product applied to the child (ointment/cream) is supplied by the parent, used only on one child, and labelled with the child’s name
  • Wear gloves or use a single-use applicator when applying creams or ointments
  • Place the change table beside a handwash sink. Refer to the Health and Safety Guidelines for Diaper Change Stations (PDF, 2 pages, 370 kb) for more information
  • Do not store toys or other items such as craft supplies within the washrooms/change table area
  • Have bins for diaper disposal that are labelled, covered, and kept out of children’s reach
  • Store potty seats off the floor and make sure they are not damaged
  • Do not discard potty contents in the sinks; only discard in the toilet
  • Clean and disinfect potty chairs after each use

Handling animals

Diseases like salmonella, E. coli, and others can spread from animals to humans, sometimes leading to illness and outbreaks. Young children are at the greatest risk for severe illness. For this reason, pets are generally not recommended in child care centres. We especially recommend against having exotic animals, reptiles (turtles, snakes, lizards, frogs) and poultry (chickens) due to the risk of disease transmission.

If you decide to have animals visit or live at the centre, make sure you:

  • Refer to the Animals in Child Care Settings fact sheet (PDF, 2 pages, 350 kb)
  • Don’t allow any animal that is ill in the centre
  • Display animals in enclosed cages or under appropriate restraints
  • Clean the animal bedding/cage is regularly
  • Keep animals out of areas where food is consumed, stored or served
  • Inform parents/guardians of the proposed animals as some children may have allergies, be immunocompromised or be scared; considerations such as allergies, transmission of infection, safety and the welfare of the animal must be thought out before an animal is brought to the child care centre
  • Have a policy in place for care of the pet (e.g., who takes responsibility for the pet, cage/tank cleaning and schedule, how to meet the animal’s daily requirements)
  • Ensure animal health information is documented on a veterinary care statement for every visiting and/or resident animal other than fish and invertebrate species
  • Have an up-to-date rabies vaccination certificate kept on file for dogs and cats visiting the centre
  • Report any animal bite or scratch using the Rabies Exposure Report (PDF, 1 page, 151 kb) – this is mandatory under the Health Protection and Promotion Act
  • Always supervise child-animal interactions
  • Ensure children and staff wash their hands immediately after handling the animal
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces where the animal has been using an approved disinfectant
  • Do not allow children to come into contact with feces or handle raw animal food/treats
  • Keep the animal’s food out of children’s reach and away from human food

Sensory play and crafts

When planning a sensory or arts and crafts activity for children in your centre, use only materials that are labelled as intended and safe for use by children. Refer to the Sensory Play and Crafts fact sheet (PDF, 2 pages, 207 kb) for our recommendations.

Safety tips for children

  • Supervise children when using arts and crafts materials.
  • Buy kid-friendly products and choose products labeled for children’s use.
  • Keep materials in their original containers. This way, you can refer to label instructions and emergency advice later.
  • Always follow the safety instructions on the label.
  • Store all materials out of the sight and reach of children.
  • Don’t let children eat or drink when using arts and crafts materials.
  • Do arts and crafts in a well-ventilated area.

Never let children use these materials:

  • Paint that is not labelled as “for use by children”, powdered clay and paint, ceramic glaze, copper enamel, and solder for stained glass (may contain lead or cadmium)
  • Shellac, paint strippers, and craft dyes (may contain solvents with toluene or methyl alcohol, which may cause blindness or other serious health effects if swallowed)

For more information, refer to Health Canada: Use Arts and Craft Materials Safely.