Eliminating the spread of illness in day care centers
HEALTH MATTERS

Eliminating the spread of illness in day care centers

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Illnesses like colds and the flu can spread easily among children in a day care center. While sharing is a good way for kids to learn social skills, it’s not always the best way to stay healthy. While there’s no foolproof way to avoid germs there are ways to help your child avoid an illness.

Colds and the flu are spread by “germs,” a nonmedical term for any organism that causes an infection. Coughing and sneezing can spread germs through the air, where others can inhale them. Those germs can also land on toys or other objects that children touch. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 80 percent of infectious diseases are spread by touch.

Frequent and thorough handwashing is the single most important way to stop the spread of colds and flu. Licensed child care facilities are required to ensure that children wash their hands before eating, before participating in food preparation activities and after using the toilet. Parents can encourage the same habits at home.

Child care staff are also required to wash their hands frequently throughout the day. Licensed child care centers must also keep floors, walls, sinks, toilets and other equipment clean. Table tops and toys must be cleaned and sanitized regularly to help eliminate germs. Parents can apply the same good practice at home, especially when a family member is sick.

Children attending licensed day care centers must be up-to-date on their immunizations. While there’s no immunization to protect your child against colds, the CDC recommends that all children over 6 months of age get an annual flu shot.

Keeping your children at home when they’re sick is the best way to avoid spreading illnesses. The State of Montana requires children experiencing these symptoms or illnesses to be kept out of a day care center:

• Fever of 101°F or higher

• Vomiting

• Diarrhea

• Diagnosis of a bacterial infection such as strep throat, scarlet fever, impetigo, or pinkeye until the child has been on antibiotics for at least 24 hours

• A rash that has not been evaluated by a healthcare provider

• Jaundice

Children may return to day care when they have been symptom-free for 24 hours, or have been evaluated by a healthcare provider who approves their return.

Day care centers are an important part of our community. RiverStone Health conducts inspections and provides education to these centers to promote health and safety. For information on childhood immunizations, call the RiverStone Health Immunization Clinic at 247-3382.

Kristina Miller is a Registered Sanitarian at RiverStone Health, and can be reached at 256-2770, or kristina.mil@riverstonehealth.org

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