Hand-washing is the most effective way to prevent diarrheal infections from passing from child to child. Dirty hands carry infectious germs into the body when a child bites nails or puts any part of the hands into the mouth. Children should wash their hands often, especially after using the toilet and before eating. Clean bathroom surfaces also help to prevent the spread of infectious germs.

Food and water also can carry infectious germs, so fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly before eating. Kitchen counters and cooking utensils should be washed thoroughly after they have touched raw meat, especially poultry. Meats should be refrigerated as soon as possible after bringing them home from the supermarket, and they should be cooked until they are no longer pink. After meals, cooked leftovers should be refrigerated as soon as possible.

When traveling, children should never drink from streams, springs, or lakes unless local health authorities have certified that the water is safe for drinking. Parents also should be careful when buying prepared foods from street vendors, especially if no local health agency oversees the operations.

Pets, especially reptiles, can spread germs if their feeding areas are not separate from family eating areas. Children should never wash pet cages or bowls in the same sink that is used to prepare family meals.

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