Colds, and flus, and viruses, oh my! Every childcare provider knows that wherever the little ones are, the germs will soon follow! How can you take steps to keep yourself and your little ones healthy this cold and flu season? In the following article, read about ten ways you can stay healthy as a childcare provider.
Children and germs go hand in hand. As the babies, toddlers, and preschoolers in your care grow and develop, so do their immune systems. In the meantime, there are practical steps you can take to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses in your childcare environment in order to keep yourself and your little ones as healthy as possible.
Throughout the year, and especially during cold and flu season, you should be washing your hands with soap and water multiple times throughout the day. Washing your hands before food preparation, after changing babies or helping young children use the potty, and after helping little ones blow their nose are crucial. In general, get into the habit of washing your hands frequently and teaching your little ones to do the same.
Demonstrate Sneeze and Cough Hygiene
As an adult, you already know the importance of coughing and sneezing into your elbow, but do the children in your care? Teach little ones proper sneeze and cough hygiene and encourage them to practice covering their sneeze or cough at every opportunity. It may take persistence, but you can help them develop this healthy habit and prevent the spread of germs.
Disinfect Key Surfaces
All year round, and especially during cold and flu season, use antibacterial cleaning products to disinfect key surfaces in your childcare environment on a regular basis. Classroom desks and tables, countertops, doorknobs, bathroom surfaces, and the like should be wiped down frequently. Children’s toys and play equipment, classroom supplies, and high-use objects should be sprayed with Lysol or other antimicrobial products. If you prefer cleaning agents without harsh chemicals, there are many easy recipes for DIY all-purpose cleaners and disinfectants. A simple solution of vinegar and water works too.
Communicate Healthy Habits
Take preventative measures to communicate healthy habits to families you serve at the beginning of cold and flu season. Use your parent newsletter to offer a “Healthy Tip of the Week” as a way to encourage families to practice healthy habits together. Open communication about germ prevention and general health can help you keep some of those germs away from your little ones—and your classroom.
Watch for Signs of Sickness
Keep an eye out for signs of sickness in the children you care for on a daily basis. Decide ahead of time how you will handle situations like parents dropping off children with runny noses, coughs, or tummy troubles. Be vigilant during daily check-ins to monitor children’s temperature and other basic vital signs. Make sure children’s vaccine records are up-to-date. Encourage parents to keep sick children at home or to pick up unwell children as soon as possible.
Take Care of Your Nutrition
As a childcare provider, you can’t give what you don’t have. That’s why such a demanding profession as caring for little children requires you to take care of yourself first and foremost. Start with your nutrition. Are you eating healthy meals and snacks? Are you drinking enough water? Are you staying away from excess caffeine, sugar, and processed foods? Fueling your body with good nutrition goes a long way in helping you ward of sickness during cold and flu season.
Take Vitamins or Supplements
Many teachers and childcare providers take vitamins or supplements under the guidance of their doctor to strengthen their immune system and prevent illness. Vitamin C, Zinc, and Elderberry syrup are all popular preventatives/remedies for colds and flu. Always consult your doctor before taking vitamins and supplements.
Take Care of Your Mental and Emotional Health
Your job, and life in general, is demanding. How are you taking care of your mental and emotional health? Are you constantly in a state of stress and overwhelm? Are you running from one responsibility to the next? Are you up at night worrying and fretting about the different problems you need to solve? Do you make time for fun, rest, and relaxation? How you answer these questions can tell you a lot about your mental and emotional health. Be sure to take time to rest, recharge, step away from your responsibilities when possible, and rediscover what fills you up and gives you energy and motivation to keep going. If you’re burnt out, you are more susceptible to falling sick.
Make Sleep a Priority
Healthy sleep habits play an important role in your overall health and well-being. Be sure you are getting at least seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and sleep in a completely dark and quiet room, as much as it is possible. Give yourself time to transition for sleep in the evening by limiting screen time before bed and practicing a calming routine, such as reading a book or drinking herbal tea.
Engage in Physical Activity
You probably run around with little kids all day long. Maybe you finish the work day exhausted and ready to flop down on the couch (if you didn’t have so many other responsibilities!) The last thing you might feel like doing is anything related to physical exercise. However, when you can find ways to work enjoyable physical activity into your day-to-day routine, you will experience so many benefits. Even a brisk walk or a thirty-minute dance fitness video can elevate your energy levels, your mood, and your heart-rate. Set realistic goals for yourself in this area. A strong, healthy body is more able to fight off bacteria and viruses.
It’s inevitable that sickness will visit your childcare center during cold and flu season. With little ones underfoot, you can’t expect to eliminate germs completely. However, when you take a few practical steps like the ones outlined above, you can help prevent the spread of germs and reduce the illnesses spread to you and the children you care for at your daycare.
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