How to Handle Common Childhood Illnesses at Your Childcare Center

October 11, 2022

As we enter another cold, flu, and virus season, it’s best to take proactive measures to keep yourself and the children you care for at your childcare center as healthy as possible. The occurrence of common childhood illnesses at your early learning program is inevitable, and knowing how to handle sickness at your center is a must. In the following article, learn when to encourage parents to keep their child at home, when it’s okay to keep a child at daycare, and how to stop the spread of infection to other children and your staff. Read on to find out more.

Keep Children, Your Team, and Yourself Healthy

As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is especially true in the case of preventing the spread of cold, flu, and virus germs throughout your childcare facility. Check out these ten practical ways to keep children, your team, and yourself as healthy as possible.

While you can do everything in your power to stop the spread of infectious illnesses at your early learning center, you will still inevitably have sick children at your program. Children may become infected before they show signs of illness, providing many opportunities for germs to spread before parents or your team are aware. In other instances, parents may decide to send their child to school with an infectious illness either because they feel the child’s symptoms are temporary and mild or because they feel it is too difficult to make arrangements to stay home with a sick child. Undoubtedly, every childcare provider will have to face the dilemma of what to do with a sick child at daycare sooner or later. We hope the following guidelines will help.

When a Child Should Stay Home from Daycare

Educate the families you serve about when to keep their children home from daycare. Include this information in your parent newsletter, talk about it at your open house, and include it in your daycare parent handbook. Make sure to review it every year in time for cold, flu, and virus season.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, here’s when parents should keep their child at home:

  • When the child has a fever (temperature above 101˚F or 38.3˚C) accompanied by behavior changes or other signs and symptoms, such as sore throat, rash, vomiting, or diarrhea. (For infants under 2 months of age, a temperature of 100.4˚F or 38.0˚C should be addressed immediately by a healthcare professional.)
  • When the child has diarrhea
  • When the child has vomited 2 or more times in the past 24 hours and the vomiting cannot be explained by a pre-diagnosed, non-communicable condition
  • When the child has abdominal pain, with or without other symptoms, for more than 2 hours
  • When the child has mouth sores that cause excessive drooling and the mouth sores have not been identified by a healthcare professional as being noninfectious
  • When the child has a rash with fever or behavioral changes, until a healthcare professional determines the rash is noninfectious
  • When the child has skin sores that are weeping fluid and are on an exposed body surface that cannot be covered with a waterproof dressing
  • When the child appears to be severely ill, is not responsive, irritable, persistently crying, having difficulty breathing, or having a quickly spreading rash

Other Conditions for Which to Keep Children Home:

  • Strep throat (Streptococcal pharyngitis), until the child has had 2 doses of antibiotics 12 hours apart
  • Head lice, scabies, or ringworm until after the first treatment
  • Chickenpox (varicella), until the child’s lesions have crusted or dried and no new lesions have shown up for at least 24 hours
  • Rubella, until 7 days after the rash appears
  • Pertussis, until 5 days of appropriate antibiotic treatment
  • Mumps, until 5 days after onset of parotid gland swelling
  • Measles, until 4 days after onset of rash
  • Hepatitis A virus infection, until 1 week after onset of illness or jaundice, or as directed by the health department

You can find out more information about common childhood illnesses and when to keep children home from daycare from, powered the American Academy of Pediatrics.

There are times, however, when symptomatic children are okay to come to daycare, and you should be aware of the following situations, provided that there is not an active outbreak of influenza, and the child has met the fever and severity criteria:

  • Common colds
  • Runny noses (regardless of color or consistency of nasal discharge)
  • Coughs
  • Yellow, green, white, or watery eye discharge without fever, even if the whites of the eyes are red (pinkeye)
  • Eye pain or eyelid redness
  • Fever in children older than 4 months above 101˚F or 38.3˚C without any signs or symptoms of illness
  • Rash without fever and without behavioral changes
  • Thrush
  • Fifth disease
  • All staphylococcal infections, including MRSA carriers or children with colonization of MRSA but without an illness that would require exclusion
  • Molluscum contagiosum
  • Cytomegalovirus infection
  • Hepatitis B virus infection
  • HIV infection

You can find out more information about managing infectious diseases at your childcare center with these quick reference sheets from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

What to Do with a Sick Child at Daycare

Victoria, a three-year-old at your preschool, is running a fever and has become cranky and irritable. What do you do?

First, keep her separate from the other children in the program. Take her to a designated “sick room” or “sick area” where she can rest while you call her parents. If possible, choose one staff member to care for her while other staff members attend to healthy children. Monitor her symptoms to provide a detailed report to the parents when they arrive.

Here are the steps you should take when you observe a sick child at your daycare:

  • Separate the sick child from well children in a designated sick room or area.
  • Keep the sick child comfortable by providing a separate cot and toys for him or her. Clean and disinfect these items after use.
  • If possible, choose one staff member to attend the sick child while other staff members attend the healthy children.
  • Contact the parents to request a pick-up for the child. Remind them of your sick policy.
  • Follow your sick child policy, as well as the guidelines outlined by the American Academy of Pediatrics, above.
  • Update the child’s records.
  • If needed, send a fact sheet or letter home to parents.

Taking proactive measure to keep children, your staff, and yourself healthy, educating parents about when to keep a sick child at home, recognizing common childhood illnesses for which daycare attendance is actually okay, and knowing what to do with a sick child at daycare will be immensely helpful steps for you to take as you navigate this year’s cold, flu, and virus season as a childcare provider.

Wishing you a healthy season!

The Honest Buck Accounting team is dedicated to offering a full range of professional accounting services to Early Childhood Education businesses. We help childcare center owners build a strong financial foundation so they can maximize profitability and grow their businesses. Schedule a call with us to speak with one of our experts.

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