Child Health, Safety, and Well-being

 Child Diseases, Vaccines, and Health Conditions

Last Updated: November 06, 2023
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​​​​​​Child Health Conditions and Development


Children are at risk of COVID-19. Children who are overweight, diabetic, have asthma, or other heart or immune conditions have a higher risk of serious symptoms and possible death. Even if not symptomatic, your child may get infected while in school or a child care setting and bring it home. Teach your child to wear a mask, avoid germs by staying 6 feet apart, and wash hands thoroughly. Helpful links include: DCPH-A COVID Factsheet on Child and Youth Services and the DCPH-A COVI​D Library

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

​​Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that typically causes mild, cold-like symptoms but it can be more dangerous for infants and young childrenExternal Link​, adults over 65External Link, and those with certain medical conditions. 

In very young infants with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, decreased activity, and breathing difficulties. RSV may not be severe at first, but it can become severe a few days into the illness, even requiring hospitalization.

The CDC reports that nearly all children are infected with RSV before their 2nd birthdayExternal Link​. Repeat infections may occur throughout life, and people of any age can be infected. 

People are exposed to the RSV from airborne droplets from coughing or sneezing, and surfaces that have residual virus. RSV can survive for many hours on hard surfaces. Children are often infected with RSV in school or childcare centers.  

Military medical facilities report their cases of RSV so that trends are described in military public health surveillance reports (see our Influenza Surveillance reports). 

An RSV vaccine was recently approved for infants and children up to 24 monthsExternal Link – parents should talk to providers about protecting their child with this vaccine. 

The CDC recommends the following steps to prevent the spread of RSVExternal Link​: 

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or upper shirt sleeve
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Avoid touching nose/eyes/mouth
  • Stay home if sick

For more information, see this handoutExternal Link​​ from the CDC.

Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfection

Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are terms used to reduce the spread of germs within a child care setting. They each have different meanings - but each are key steps to reducing the spread of germs and infection: 

  • Cleaning: Removes dirt and some germs from surfaces. Does not kill germs, but reduces the impurities and number of germs to reduce spread of infections and allows for better sanitizing and disinfecting. 

  • ​​Sanitizing: Does not destroy germs but further reduces the amount of germs on cleaned surfaces. 
  • Disinfecting: Destroys (kills) residual germs on clean surfaces by using EPA-registered disinfectants and proper procedures (such as contact time). This will not clean dirty surfaces or remove germs. It is important to use the right disinfecting solution for the right purpose and apply it in the right way. A freshly made dilute mixture of bleach and water with proper concentration is often best, but can be irritating and have potential harmful effects to children and childcare providers and can damage some surfaces. Appropriate personal protective equipment and measures should be used when using bleach solutions. 

See the Army-recommended Cleaning, Sanitizing and Disinfecting Chart​ for childcare facilities.  

Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUIDS) and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Did you know that each year in the U.S. there are about 3500 infant (<1 year) deaths? Read how to reduce risk of this tragedyExternal Link such as sleeping on back, on firm mattress, on child-safe bed, or in the same room as parent.