Avoiding infection: What to do at the doctor’s office
- Washing your hands and your child’s hands often is the best way to stop the spread of germs.
- If your child has a cough or cold, cover his mouth and nose with tissues when he coughs or sneezes.
- If your child has a cold, cough or diarrhea, let the receptionist know when you arrive.
You might worry about whether your child can pick up an infection in the doctor’s office. While this can happen, there are things you can do to reduce your child’s chance of catching an infection.
How can I help protect my child from getting an infection?
Children in the waiting room can have infections. Your child will likely only catch an infection if the children touch each other often, put the same toys in their mouths or if your child touches toys and then puts her fingers in her mouth or nose.
While your child cannot avoid all germs, there are things you can do to decrease the chance getting sick.
- Washing your hands and your child’s hands often is the best way to stop the spread of germs. When your child is old enough, teach her how and when to wash her hands with soap or a hand cleaner (such as an alcohol-based hand rinse or pre-moistened hand wipes). These are often available in doctor’s waiting rooms. You can also be prepared by carrying your own hand cleaner or wipes to use when soap and water are not available.
Wash your hands and your child’s hands with soap or a hand cleaner:
- after wiping your child’s nose,
- after changing your child’s diaper or helping him to use the toilet,
- before feeding your child,
- after handling frequently touched items in the waiting room.
- If your child is very young, you might want to bring a favorite toy or book with you.
- “Cough hygiene” (or cough etiquette) also helps prevent the spread of infection. If your child has a cough or cold, cover his mouth and nose with tissues when he coughs or sneezes. If you have a cold, do the same. Some offices will provide a mask for you—and your child if old enough—to wear if you are coughing. After cleaning your child’s nose or your own, put the used tissues into a garbage container (or a plastic bag if none is available), then wash your hands and wash your child’s hands with soap or hand cleaner.
- If your child has a cold, cough or diarrhea, let the receptionist know when you arrive. Depending on his age and condition, you may be asked to stay in a certain part of the waiting room and to keep your child from playing with other children. If you think your child could have a very contagious disease (such as chickenpox or measles), let the clinic know before you go. Your doctor’s receptionist might have you wait to see the doctor in a clinic room rather than in the waiting room.
- Make sure that your child receives all routine immunizations at the right age.
If your child has a condition that makes her especially prone to infections, she should not share toys with other children until she:
- can keep from putting things in her mouth, and
- knows to clean her hands after sharing objects.
Reviewed by the following CPS committees:
Infectious Diseases and Immunization Committee
Last updated: November 2013