An observational study of frequency of provider hand contacts in child care facilities in North Carolina and South Carolina


      • Children's clothing are the most frequently touched.
      • Common high-touch surfaces, such as light switches and doorknobs, are touched the least.
      • Guidelines are available for nonporous surfaces but not for porous surfaces.


      Children enrolled in child care are 2.3-3.5 times more likely to experience acute gastrointestinal illness than children cared for in their own homes. The purpose of this study was to determine the frequency surfaces were touched by child care providers to identify surfaces that should be cleaned and sanitized.


      Observation data from a convenience sample of 37 child care facilities in North Carolina and South Carolina were analyzed. Trained data collectors used iPods (Apple, Cupertino, CA) to record hand touch events of 1 child care provider for 45 minutes in up to 2 classrooms in each facility.


      Across the 37 facilities, 10,134 hand contacts were observed in 51 classrooms. Most (4,536) were contacts with porous surfaces, with an average of 88.9 events per classroom observation. The most frequently touched porous surface was children's clothing. The most frequently touched nonporous surface was food contact surfaces (18.6 contacts/observation). Surfaces commonly identified as high-touch surfaces (ie, light switches, handrails, doorknobs) were touched the least.


      General cleaning and sanitizing guidelines should include detailed procedures for cleaning and sanitizing high-touch surfaces (ie, clothes, furniture, soft toys). Guidelines are available for nonporous surfaces but not for porous surfaces (eg, clothing, carpeting). Additional research is needed to inform the development of evidence-based practices to effectively treat porous surfaces.

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