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Keeping Kids in Childcare Healthy

16 July, 2007

Keeping kids in child care healthy

Every one will tell you that children who attend child care contract more colds and illnesses. That will always be the byproduct of coming into regular contact with a large group of young children. However, there are steps a parent can take to minimise the number of illnesses their child catches whilst at day care.

A Strong Immune System

The first, and most important, step is to make sure your child is healthy. Breastfeeding for the first two years of life (and beyond) gives your child a “head start”. Children who are breastfed for the first two years of life will have fewer gastrointestinal illnesses, fewer colds and fewer ear infections (just to name a few). These health benefits do not cease when breastfeeding ceases but follow the child into adulthood. So, the longer your child is breastfed for, the lower the chance he will get sick from any source.

Eating a balanced diet, full of all the essential vitamins and minerals your child needs is essential to good health and immune strength. Children lacking in these vitamins and minerals are more prone to illness.

Ensure your child is well before sending them to day care is also very important. A cold puts a strain on your child’s immune system, making them more likely to catch and other illnesses another child may have.

If you are going to immunise your child, be sure that her immunisations are up to date. Polio immunisation, for example, is given in the form of a live virus that can be present in the immunised child’s faeces for up to two weeks after the immunisation. If your child is not immunised, or selectively immunised, ensure that the centre is fully aware and keep your child away from the centre whilst there are cases of these communicable diseases. Most centres will insist on this.

Teach Your Children Well

As soon as possible, teach your children to care for their own hygiene needs. Encourage your child to ask for a tissue when needed and teach them to wipe and blow their own nose. Teach your children about not sharing food and drinks with other children. The more independent a child is a catering for their own hygiene needs, the fewer germs they will carry. Also teach your child to recognise their own belongings, such as drink bottle, clothing and toothbrush.

Not to be forgotten is teaching your children how to wash their hands properly. Most adults don’t even know how to do this. The backs and fronts of your hands need to be washed as well as under fingernails (keep these as short as possible) and between the fingers. Singing a song as you rub soap over your child’s hands will give them an idea of how long he needs to be washing his hands for, even if he can’t remember all the parts of their hand he needs to wash. Hands must also be rinsed and dried thoroughly.

Choosing a Child Care Facility

The National Child Care Accreditation Council (NCAC) inspects and evaluates child care centres and family day care facilities regularly. All accredited centres must have policies and procedures to encourage and, where possible, ensure that strict hygiene standards are kept. To attract Child Care Benefit the facility must be accredited.

Inspect the child care centre on several occasions before enrolling your child. The NCAC have a good booklet on things to look for when choosing a child care facility on their website ( You can also ask to view the centre’s policies on hygiene and illness – you have the right to view any policy at any time. You can also view current and past menus (if the facility provides meals).

Sending Your Child to the Child Care Facility

Ensure your child is healthy and well rested before sending her to day care. Inform staff of any concerns you may have about your child and ensure they know that you are happy to collect your child if she seems at all unwell. Centres will also have policies on when ill children cannot attend or must be sent home.

Wash your child’s hands when he arrive at the facility. This will help to prevent any nasties your child is carrying from home spreading to any other children in the centre. When you collect your child, wash his hands before leaving and as soon as possible after collecting your child, change your child’s clothes. This will help to prevent your child infecting themselves or any other members of your family with any bacteria they may have come into contact with at the facility.

Most facilities will have a sleep time for children. You can provide sheets for your child, even if the centre generally provides them. You can also request for them to be sent home after each day or week your child attends the centre, even if the centre’s normal procedure is for them to be sent home fortnightly, for example.

Speak Up

If you ever have a concern, voice it with a staff member or, if possible, with the director of the centre (if in a child care centre). Centres may not be aware of every issue. Follow up any issues you address. Every centre must have a grievance policy which you should follow. It will also indicate where you should take your complaints if you feel the facility have not sufficiently addressed your complaint.

Child care facilities do not need to be a venue for sharing bacteria. A few simple precautions and careful selection can save your child from unnecessary “sick days”. Child Care facilities are not perfect and children will get sick, but we, as parents, should do all we can to prevent it.

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