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Encouraging Disease Prevention at Your Day Nursery

By: Elizabeth Grace - Updated: 14 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Nursery Child Care Disease Pre-school

When parents drop their children at a pre-school or nursery, they are entrusting that the child care providers will take active steps to reduce the spread of illness and disease, keeping the kids as safe and healthy as possible. While there is no way to guarantee that kids won't get sick, minimising kids' exposure to germs can help a great deal.

Creating and Enforcing a Sick Child Policy

Young children tend to play closely with one another, so one sick child can quickly infect an entire group. It is vital that owners of nurseries and preschools establish policies outlining their expectations regarding sick children and then see that each set of parents understands that there may be times when their kids must be kept home in order to protect the group from illness.

While it certainly isn't reasonable to keep children at home for every sniffle, most ailments more serious than the common cold warrant a day or two away from child care centres. Children who are feverish and those who are exhibiting gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhoea need to be kept away, and when respiratory symptoms suggest something more serious than colds, parents should make other arrangement for care. Obviously, any illness that is clearly contagious, such as conjunctivitis (pink eye), impetigo, ringworm, or an infestation of any variety, such as head lice, would keep children out of group child care settings until the condition has cleared up.

In accepting the terms of a centre's sick child policy, parents need to be available to collect a sick child (or make arrangements for another responsible adult to take charge of the child) as quickly as is reasonable after getting a call informing them that their child isn't feeling well. Most centres have a low tolerance for parents who delay picking up their sick children and many issue warnings on a first occasion and then remove a child from their attendance rosters if parents are habitually late in coming for their ailing children.

Encouraging Good Hygiene in Young Children

The spread of disease can be minimised when children are taught to practice good hygiene. Caregivers should routinely wash the hands of very young children and by the time that they are pre-school aged, kids should have been taught proper hand-washing techniques. Many children fail to wash thoroughly if they are not supervised, instead quickly rinsing and drying their hands. Nursery helpers can encourage good hand-washing by encouraging the kids to sing a few verses from a favourite song while they lather up; when they are done singing they are ready to rinse with warm water.

Children (and adults!) should wash their hands a number of times throughout the day. At a minimum, kids should be instructed to wash up before eating and after playing outside, handling animals, or using the bathroom.

Safe Food Handling at Child Care Centres

Foodborne illnesses can cause distressing symptoms, which can be especially dangerous to young children, so proper food storage and handling is vital in any child care environment. Foods need to be kept properly refrigerated and should only be consumed when fresh. All cooking utensils need to be kept spotlessly clean, along with countertops, cutting boards, or any other surfaces that come into contact with children's food. After meals, any leftovers need to be immediately refrigerated and then used promptly.

Sanitization Standards for Day Nurseries and Pre-Schools

Because young children are inclined to put things into their mouths, child care centres need to be diligent about keeping toys clean and disinfected. At the end of each day (or at another convenient time, such as when the children are napping), all toys should get a thorough washing. Soft toys may be able to be cleaned in a washing machine, using hot water and then machine dried on the hottest setting, while hard toys need to be washed with hot, sudsy water. Some hard toys may be able to safely go into a dishwasher (top shelf only), making the process easier for caregivers.

In addition to keeping toys clean, attention must be paid to the overall cleanliness of the centre. Children's furniture items should be cleaned at least once daily, more often if they are used for multiple purposes, such as eating and creating craft projects, and since children often play on the floor, carpets and hard floor surfaces should be kept clean and free of debris. Regular sweeping, vacuuming, and washing are necessary. It can be beneficial for children, parents and employees to refrain from wearing street shoes on floors where children play, instead asking employees to keep a pair of "work only" shoes at the site and asking parents to provide a pair for each child that can be kept onsite.

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