When flu season rolls around, it’s easy to resign yourself to the idea that a barrage of illnesses will be making its way through your child care center throughout the winter months.
If it seems to you that kids are more likely than adults to get sick, your instincts are right! As children’s bodies build up immunity to common infections, they’re at greater risk. In addition, young children tend to put all kinds of things in their mouths and lack proper hygiene, adding to their exposure to various bacteria. First-year participants in group child care will stand to experience even more infectious illnesses during that initial year of greater exposure.
While you may not be able to prevent illnesses from entering your center altogether, you can reduce the chances of those germs spreading and affecting both staff members and children under your care by following a few simple tips.
Reducing Exposure to Illnesses
The American Association of Pediatrics recommends requiring all participants (both children and staff) to be up to date on all vaccinations, including annual flu shots, for those 6 months old and older. The AAP also recommends that group care facilities have policies in place that exempt children from participating when they’ll put other children at risk for various illnesses.
While those with runny noses and common colds may be permitted, children who experience the following symptoms should be kept home: a fever over 101 degrees F along with other symptoms, diarrhea, vomiting twice or more in a 24-hour period, mouth sores, and head lice. (For the full list, see this post.)
Caring for Sick Children
Make sure that your child care center is prepared with designated space and staff members to care for children who are ill, while they are waiting to be picked up. No matter how carefully you’ve communicated your exclusion policy, it’s wise to be proactive about this inevitable situation.
Staff members should know the procedure for both determining when there’s a need to contact a parent as well as who is responsible to make that contact. After a staff member has determined that the child’s parent needs to be contacted, you want to allow the child to comfortably rest in a separate area where other healthy children would not be exposed. Be sure that sick children are carefully supervised, since their status can change quickly.
Once a child is able to return to the center without risking infecting other children, you may still need to administer medication, so be sure your staff has a plan in place and your staff members have been trained to give medication. It’s imperative to make sure your staff gives the right medication to the correct child at the time intervals and dosages indicated and that they document each dose given.
The single most significant factor in preventing the spread of contagious illnesses is proper hygiene. And we’ll discuss some of the ways your child care center can use and promote proper hygiene in Part 2.