Summer 2015 Health Link Online

HealthLink Online

Uniting Children, Parents, Caregivers, and Health Professionals

Animal Visits

Animal Visits

Summer is a great time to see animals at a local fair or farm, to visit a petting zoo, or to have animals come visit an early education and child care facility. As cute as baby goats, ducklings and other animals can be, many of these animals carry germs that can make people sick.

Here are five ways to make visits with animals a safe, fun and healthy experience for all.

Hand Washing: Children and caregivers should wash their hands with soap and water after petting animals, touching animals, or even being in the animal area. Everyone in the group should wash hands whether or not they touched the animals. Find out in advance if soap and water are available. Don't visit if you find out the facility doesnít provide hand washing facilities. You can use hand sanitizers for children with visibly clean hands who are 24 months or older, but some animal germs are resistant to alcohol. As a make-do until you can get to soap and water, carry a plastic bag of paper towels wet with soapy water and a bag of paper towels just wet with plain water to clean and rinse the children's hands. Wash with running water as soon as you can.

 Shoes: The bottoms of shoes can have animal waste on them after being in an animal exhibit. Check shoes to see if they need to be cleaned before they bring animal waste into vehicles and buildings. Be sure to wash hands after removing and/or cleaning shoes.

Surfaces: Clean and sanitize all the surfaces touched by an animal or by people who touched the animal during animal visits.

Eating: Children and teachers/caregivers should not eat in animal areas. They should not share their food with the animals either. Some petting zoos will provide food for their visitors to feed the animals. Be sure to review the guidelines for safe feeding of animals with exhibit staff. Remember to wash hands immediately after contact with animals and again before eating a snack or lunch.

Safety: Supervise young children at all times when around animals. Children should not put anything in the animal's mouths - no fingers, toys, or foods. (Exhibit staff can give instructions for feeding the animals. Teachers/caregivers should decide if it is safe.) All strollers, sippy cups, diaper bags, and toys should be left outside of the animal area.

With these precautions you can have great visits!

Contributed by Sarah Macdonald, MD, FAAP - CHOP Network High Point (Photo: Google Images)