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Childhood illnesses and child care

Shirley Ritter
Kids First

The last thing a parent needs before she’s even had her first cup of coffee is a call at work from her child care provider who says her child is sick. The last thing a child care provider needs is to discover an ill child in her care who may have exposed other children in the program or center.

But illness, young children, and child care are facts of life. Young children get sick more frequently than adults because their immune systems cannot fight disease as well. Considering the large number of children in child care, both parents and child care providers must learn to recognize whether children should attend child care, or stay at home.

The program’s first instinct may be to exclude children from early childhood programs when they demonstrate signs of a common cold, but children who are sneezing or sniffling may actually have exposed others before seeming ill. And, many illnesses stop being contagious shortly after treatment is started.

Up-to-date immunizations and frequent, proper hand washing help prevent illness in centers and homes. As for whether mildly ill children should attend early childhood programs or stay at home, the basic question to ask is whether or not the child can participate comfortably and receive adequate, appropriate care without interfering with the care of other children.

Parents should be familiar with your child care program’s policies that address excluding ill children. Well-informed and regularly-implemented policies help programs provide appropriate care for ill children as well as a healthy environment for all children and staff. Notify caregivers about any illness that occurred the night before. We’ve all seen children go to bed with a fever, then wake up well and eager to attend their program or center.

Never pressure a caregiver to include an ill child or place an ill child in care without notifying the program. Remember programs have a responsibility to maintain a healthy environment for all children, staff, and families. Plan back-up care ahead of time for your child when he is too ill to attend child care.

Programs should use proper prevention such as frequent hand washing by both caregivers and children; and adopt universal precautions to handle potential exposure to blood and blood-containing body fluids. Wash and disinfect equipment (such as toys and items mouthed by infants) during the day, and everything at least once a week.

Child care programs also need to be sensitive to the needs of parents who may have limited leave time at their own places of employment. Lost work in many cases means lowered income or even the loss of a job. Make the situation work best for all parties involved.

If you are uncertain about the nature or management of an illness, call or consult your health care professional to help you determine how sick your child is and what care he needs. Public health is a great resource – check your local phone book; also a good reference for childhood illness and symptoms — Infectious Disease in Childcare Settings or http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CDPHE-DCEED/CBON/1251607755294.

Kids First provides information and funding for early childhood programs and families in Pitkin County.

For information, contact Shirley at 920-5363 or shirley.ritter@cityofaspen.com.


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