Navigating the exciting yet potentially treacherous terrain of the petting zoo requires you to turn up your Daddy Danger Detector. As fathers, we appreciate the value of these hands-on educational experiences for your children. However, we must recognize the risks and know how to mitigate them. Here are some parental precautions when taking children to a petting zoo.
Nasty Bugs Lurk There
Let us begin with the less cuddly side of our furry friends at the petting zoo—the bacteria and parasites they may harbor. Animals, no matter how adorable and healthy-looking, can carry germs and parasites, such as E. coli, salmonella, and cryptosporidium. With a bit of precaution and staying sanitary, you can manage these risks.
Eat Before Your Visit and Watch Those Little Hands
If your trip to a petting zoo coincides with a mealtime, eat before you enter the animal attraction. That way, you lessen the chance that a child will pick up germs while eating or drinking.
Watch your little ones closely to make sure they don’t touch animal feces or put their hands in their mouths after petting the animals.
Keep strollers and pacifiers out of the petting zoo area, and don’t let your kids carry bottles, crackers, ice cream, or other snacks with them into the zoo area.
Supervised Hand Washing
After leaving a petting zoo, you must ensure your kids have washed their hands thoroughly with soap and water.
If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 70 percent alcohol and get your kids to a bathroom with soap and water as soon as possible.
When in Doubt, Stay Out
If the animals appear unclean or the pens are full of animal waste, it would be best to steer clear. The same is true if you notice that the zoo has failed to provide needed handwashing stations and doesn’t clean their porta potties often enough. Using your judgment and prioritizing your child’s safety will ensure everyone has a positive experience.
Change Clothes and Leave Shoes Outside
As soon as you get home, have your kids change their clothes and put them in the laundry for a wash in hot water. Vacuum the car, and leave shoes that have been in a petting zoo area outside of the house. You can bring them back inside once you clean and disinfect them.
A trip to the petting zoo can be a fun-filled, educational outing for your children, provided you take certain parental precautions. Understanding the potential risks and using sound judgment can make all the difference in keeping your kids safe and healthy. If you notice your kids are showing symptoms of illness within a week of your visit, contact your pediatrician immediately.