Baby diapers often contain unpleasant surprises. If you're babysitting, you can expect to have to clean up baby feces and urine. Whether or not you should wear gloves depends on several things. In many daycare settings, attendants must wear gloves to prevent the spread of germs from one baby to another. It's not crucial to wear gloves if you're just taking care of one infant, although you might want to if you have open cuts or sores on your hands. Gloves are no substitute for good hand-washing techniques, however.
Microorganisms in Stool
Many diseases are transmitted via the fecal-oral route, including intestinal diseases such as campylobacter, cryptosporidiosis, E. coli, hepatitis A, rotavirus, salmonella and shigella. Wash your hands thoroughly after changing a baby, whether or not you wear gloves. Use running water and thoroughly lather your hands with soap. Scrub all areas including under the nails and the back of the hands. Wash for a minimum of 20 seconds, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends. Hand sanitizers do not remove all microorganisms from your skin.
If you work in a day care with several children, wearing gloves lessens the risk of transmitting an intestinal disease from one child to the other. It's easy to transmit these microorganisms to your hands by getting stool under your nails or on the cracks of your skin. If you change one baby and then another, the second baby won't pick up the infection unless he gets the stool on his skin and then transmits it to his mouth, but since babies often touch their diaper area and put their hands in their mouths, it's easy for them to transmit germs from one area to the other. If your center has policies mandating glove use, you must follow them. Change gloves between children; never wear the same pair twice.
Just touching feces isn't enough for you to get a fecal-oral infection unless you put your hands to your mouth before washing them. You won't absorb the infection through your skin. If you have cracks, cuts or open areas on your hands, wearing gloves can protect you from bacteria in stool that could cause an infection in the skin. However, washing your hands immediately and thoroughly after changing the baby will protect you as well. When a baby has diarrhea, it's easier to contaminate a wider area of your skin and the environment. If you usually don't wear gloves when changing a baby while babysitting, you might choose to wear them when a baby has diarrhea.
If you do wear gloves, use neoprene, nitrile or vinyl gloves rather than latex. Latex allergies occur frequently; either you or your little charges could develop a latex allergy. The more exposure you have to latex, the higher your risk of developing an allergy. Vinyl gloves tear more easily than nitrile, according to Ansell Healthcare, which allows transmission of bacteria through the tears.
- Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images