Young children are messy – they just can't help it! That is why odour control in nurseries is important and for staff in nurseries to keep the environment pleasant for their young charges, their parents and for themselves. The reputation of a nursery depends on this – for parents will not be impressed if they smell lingering nappy odour when they drop their children off or pick them up. Not only are the odours unpleasant, but they may also indicate that children are not properly looked after, and a poor standard of hygiene puts children attending the nursery at risk of picking up infections.
Nappy waste is the most obvious source of the odour, and infection, in the nursery environment. There should be lined pedal bins, with secure lids, for nappies in every room so a full nappy does not have to be transported too far. These bins should never be overfilled (an overfilled nappy bin is a sign of poor management). Ideally, the liner should be tied up and removed to the main bin when half to three-quarters full. For effective odour control in nurseries, the main bin should be placed well away from play areas and animals should not be able to get close to it. All bins should be collected according to local authority policy and all bins should be kept very clean.
When nursery staff change a nappy, they should of course also follow the existing guidelines – wearing a disposable apron and gloves to avoid spreading waste and contamination. Where children have graduated to a potty, this should be emptied carefully into the toilet and cleaned, to avoid odours escaping. Finally, if a child can use the toilet, visits should be supervised and the toilet area inspected regularly for cleanliness. Strict attention to hand hygiene is necessary on the part of both staff and children, to avoid spreading infection.
Young children are also prone to vomiting without warning. Since vomit spills can also smell, and spread infection, staff should be ready to clean these up promptly and safely according to the nursery's guidelines (swab with disinfectant, use disposable gloves and apron).
Surfaces affected by waste spills (nappy waste or vomit) require not just prompt cleaning but also disinfection with approved disinfectants (dilute bleach, ethyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide). It is more difficult to get rid of waste smells from carpet than from hard flooring and it may help to treat the former with a protective spray.
An professional nursery air purifier may be required in the nursery environment for removing odours, bacteria and viruses, and allergens. Studies have shown that the introduction of a high-quality air cleaner reduces sickness absence among nursery staff, by reducing the transmission of infection. This is important because good air quality in the nursery not only makes it a more pleasant place to be, but also allows more quality time in this environment for staff and children. For parents, this means an improved pre-school experience for their children, which is likely to assist their further development.
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Since the emergence of Covid-19 and global efforts to minimise the spread of infection throughout populations, there has been a renewed focus on determining what measures can be adopted to mitigate the risk of airborne transmission of respiratory viruses, including Covid-19, in a range of close proximity indoor settings.