How to keep children in day care from getting sick

Health
Young mother taking care of her ill daughter

Is your child regularly coming home from day care with a runny nose, sniffles or a tummy ache? To parents, it can seem like children in day care are almost constantly sick, especially during cold and flu season.
The good news is that there are a variety of measures parents can take to help keep their children –and other little ones– healthy in day care.

Vaccinations

One of the most important ways to keep children from getting sick is to be sure they benefit from vaccinations. Not only should children be vaccinated against mumps, measles, rubella, chicken pox, Hepatitis B, Diptheria, tetanus and pertussis, nearly all children six months and older should receive an influenza vaccine, too.
“You should ask the day care center about its approach toward vaccinations,” says Dr. Michelle McCauley, a resident physician at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at Holmestown Road. “For example, although South Carolina requires standard vaccinations for children to attend day care, a vaccination against influenza is not among those mandated.
“Look for a day care that encourages, if not requires, children and staff members to be vaccinated for the flu.”

Sick policy

McCauley says it’s also important to learn the day care’s sick policy. If a child becomes ill, when are they sent home, and when are they allowed to return?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children should not return to day care until they are fever-free for 24 hours and haven’t had any diarrhea or vomiting for at least that long.

Hand hygiene

Another way to help keep your child healthy is to practice good hand hygiene and to make sure your day care employs it with children, too.
“Hand hygiene really reduces the spread of viral and bacterial illnesses,” says Dr. McCauley.
She advises using soap and water and washing for 15-30 seconds. A hand sanitizer can be used when there is no access to water and soap.

Toys and other surfaces

Dr. McCauley also recommends asking the day care about whether toys, drinking fountains, knobs and other surfaces are cleaned, how they are cleaned and how often.
“The flu can live for up to 24 hours on a hard surface, and other viruses can live for up to a week,” she says.

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Many children have a habit of putting toys and other objects in their mouths, which can contribute to the spread of disease. It’s important to know whether toys are immediately cleaned at the end of the day or at some other interval.

A healthy lifestyle

One of the most important ways to help keep children healthy is to be sure they are eating a well-balanced diet and getting enough sleep. If your child does get sick, parents can help them recover – and keep others from getting sick – by keeping them home from day care.
“It’s always best to err on the safe side,” Dr. McCauley says. “If you are concerned your child is getting sick, keep him or her home.”

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