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Top 5 Child Care Health Issues & Week in Review

Dear Debi,
What are five of the most common health issues relating to child care and how can I prevent them?
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Establish a sick child policy
  • Wash hands frequently
  • Sanitize after changing of diapers
  • CPR training for anyone caring children
  • Communicate with parents about any illness or injuries
And donít forget about the great things that we learned this week:
Expert Advice
Dr. Anita Britt
Dr. Anita Britt
Los Angeles Childrenís Hospital
There are some common health issues that crop up in child care whether you have 2 kids in family care or 100 kids in preschool. The five most common are: the common cold; intestinal problems (like diarrhea); injuries; conjunctivitis (otherwise known as pink eye); and rashes.

When caring for children, itís important to have a clearly established sick child policy. There should be some kind of agreement stipulating when a child can stay and when a child must be picked up by a parent. For child care providers who are looking after family members, many times, they will not send a child home, but will take care of them as the parent would. Whatever your policy, itís good to make sure everyone is in agreement before the child gets sick and conflicts arise.

I recommend frequent and regular hand washing to prevent illness in children and child care providers. Most people donít wash their hands long enough or often enough. I also think itís important to get kids into the routine of washing their hands and faces several times during the day. We teach our children to wash their hands with soap and water while singing the first verse of ďItsy Bitsy Spider.Ē That makes sure they are washing their hands for at least 15 seconds. Although nothing beats soap and water, itís advisable to have hand sanitizer in your pocket at all times. Also, ask parents to wash their hands if they spend any time at the child care so that they donít bring in any additional germs.

Diapering should be done carefully so intestinal bugs arenít spread. Wash your hands before diapering a child. Wear latex gloves, change the diaper, dispose of the diaper in a plastic shopping bag and use a twist tie to secure. Then dispose of that in a garbage can with a lid. Sanitize the changing table with a household disinfectant, and then dispose of the latex gloves. Make sure you wash your hands again and wash the hands and face of the child also. Do this between each diapering, whether you are diapering several children or only one child throughout the day.

If a child becomes sick or injured, child care providers should let their sick child policy guide them on what to do. Generally, if a child gets a cold, rash or severe injury, the parents are contacted to pick up their child. If the child has a minor scrape or scratch from playing or falling, we generally clean the injury with soap and water, apply ice if swelling occurs, and affix a band-aid. This may be different for people taking care of kids for family members. For instance, if a child comes down with a cold or diarrhea, a grandmother may choose to isolate that child so that he is safe and feels comfortable, and away from other children.

If children have been exposed to a contagious illness Ė for example, pink eye Ė we post a form so that the parents can see what their child could have potentially been exposed to. Parents then have the option to take their child to their pediatrician as a preventative measure. This really helps parents manage illnesses so that they donít have to miss work unexpectedly. We generally allow the child back into care with a doctorís note or 24 hours after medications were administered.

Getting certified in infant and child CPR is good for anyone if they are taking care of children. I know that there are requirements for family child cares to have a certain number of staff trained in CPR depending on how many children are in care, but I would absolutely recommend CPR training for grandmothers, aunts, and parents also. Itís a one-day course that you can do through organizations such as the American Red Cross. Kids are always putting things in their mouths, so itís important to know what to do if they begin to choke.

Although there is some research that says that kids in child care may become sick more often, remember that this exposure early on can actually contribute to a more robust immune system in children later, preventing more serious illnesses as they go on to elementary school. So donít necessarily try to prevent kids from getting sick by keeping them out of child care.

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Topic: Health & Safety
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