Keeping your child healthy in daycare

Many people including my friends and other parents often tell me that their children are sick all the time. This often gets worse once they start daycare.  Both my children went to daycare and I have to say that I definitely had my share of issues. I also had a similar experience when my two children (boy and girl) started preschool. It was a rough experience! And here’s the thing: Once your child is at the point where she’s around a large group of children, either at daycare or preschool, it’s not uncommon for her to get 8 to 12 viral illnesses in a year!

It can sometimes feel like they are constantly sick. An even bigger worry these days with things like Corona Virus (COVID-19) lurking about, one cannot be too careful! What’s worse is that they often bring those nasty bugs home and it doesn’t take long before everyone else is sick!The good news, however, is that studies have found that toddlers who attend daycare do get sick more often than toddlers who stay home, those same children got sick less often in primary school than their peers who didn’t go to daycare. That’s probably because they build up much stronger immune systems during this time. In fact, you’ll also find that your own immune system will strengthen in time meaning that none of you will be sick as often. Until your child gets to that point, though, there are definitely things that you can do to help protect her good health, whether she’s in daycare, or about to start school. What’s more, these days with Corona Virus (COVID-19) about, one cannot be too careful!

  1. Choose a “healthy” daycare or preschool. Make sure to visit before you enrol your child and observe the procedures in place to prevent the spread of germs. For example, it’s a good idea for daycares to have sinks in every room for thorough hand washing, with a separate sink for food prep. Food should be handled away from bathrooms and nappy changing areas. Bonus points if you see someone disinfecting toys while you’re there. A lot of the time, it is really easy to spot whether a place is well kept or not. For starters, are shoesall put away to avoid tracking dirt in? Are windows well cleaned? Does the place smell nice or grotty?
  1. Ask the right questions. How often toys are cleaned? Guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that every time a child puts a toy in his mouth, it should be set aside and cleaned. How often do employees wash their hands? The answer should be often and anytime their hands are dirty, including when employees arrive, before they handle food, after they feed children, after they use the bathroom, after they change a nappy, and after they wipe a child’s nose or clean a cut. Most importantly, find out what the policy is when children get sick. When are they sent home? What are their emergency procedures? Who is called? When are they allowed to return? Children should not go back to daycare until they are fever-free for 24 hours, and haven’t had any diarrhea or vomiting for at least that long. Any communicable rashes, such as scabies or pinworms, need to be treated before children return to daycare, too.
  1. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep. This is just so important. When children are run down and not sleeping well, they are more likely to get sick as their immune systems are weaker. This goes the same for parents! Make sure you are following the recommended guidelines for sleep and that your daycare center is putting your child down for naps regularly, if naptime is appropriate for his age.
  1. Give your child plenty of healthy foods. Check that the daycare also does the same. She should be eating plenty of fruits and vegetables; foods with natural antioxidants such as berries, broccoli, tomatoes, mango, and papaya, are always a great choice. Foods with vitamin A, such as pumpkin and sweet potatoes, as well as foods that are good sources of zinc including, beef, beans, and mushrooms, may be helpful in preventing the spread of disease. 
  1. Immunize your child as per government recommendations and schedule regular check-ups with his or her pediatrician. These simple things can help prevent some common childhood illnesses. If your child is 6-months-old (or older) and attends daycare, be sure that he gets his flu shot early and yearly (you should, too). Vaccines were invented for a reason!
  1. Don’t forget those essential probiotics I give my children probiotics to help shorten the severity and duration of diarrhoea. Yoghurt with live cultures is a great source of calcium and probiotics. Just avoid the ones with excessive sugar. If your child is allergic to dairy (or doesn’t like it), try an over-the-counter probiotic powder. You can add it to their water or pureed food. There are studies that suggest probiotic use during an acute episode of diarrhea can shorten the severity and duration of the diarrheal illness; so, in my opinion, there is little downside to probiotic use especially when consumed in yoghurt.

Don't forget though that kids do get sick sooner or later. Even the best kids will get sick from time to time. Do your best to choose a daycare center with good prevention procedures and sick policies and try the other tips that I’ve mentioned. Luckily, with a little TLC, most viral illnesses will only last a few days and kids will be back to themselves in no time.  If they do get sick, make sure that you keep them comfortable and healthy. Let them rest, and take the opportunity to spend some quality time with them. 

Note: What I've written here is not meant to be medical advice, and is just my opinion! Please always consult your medical practitioner!

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