Transitioning a child in an Early Childhood Education and Care setting can be a stressful time for both families and children. For children they may struggle with separation anxiety, there is the stress of making new friends and also forming relationships with their Educators. You finally start to see them settle in and then the dreaded illnesses start to appear. Parents are then having the stress of leaving work early and having days off, children may also take a step back in their transitioning due to being absent.
Staying healthy in childcare, especially in the first 12 months they attend can be difficult. Children like to play together; they get close during play and through this play germs are transferred from hands to mouths to toys and to other children. It can sometimes feel like your child has no sooner got over one illness with another one appears; this is especially the case in winter.
As frustrating as this may seem at the time for families, there is a positive that comes out of all this illness. It has been proven that children who are exposed to these virus’s through being in care, have much better immune systems and therefore less days of formal schooling.
How Education and Care Facilities Limit the Spread of Infection?
- Effective Hand Hygiene – One of the most effective ways to control the spread of infection is having strict handwashing guidelines using soap and water and/or using an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Exclusion of ill children and Educators – the less contact there is between someone who has an infectious disease and people who are at risk of catching the disease, the less chance there is of spreading the illness. The length of time a person is to be excluded is dependent on a variety of aspects. If you are unsure of what the exclusion period is, please see your childcare centre as they have a guide, they will use that is tailored for each illness. Most services will require a clearance note from your doctor to return to care after your child has had an infectious illness.
- Immunisation – ensuring children have their immunisation according to the National Immunisation Program Schedule is a very reliable way to prevent some infections. The more people who are immunised, the lower the chance that a person will ever come into contact with someone who has the disease.
- Teaching good Cough and Sneeze etiquette – many of the illnesses are spread through germ droplets in the air. By simply covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze the amount of droplets that travel into the air is reduced. Coughing and sneezing into your inner elbow or by using a tissue to cover your mouth and nose is the most effective way to reduce germs being carried in droplets.
- Cleaning the Environment – effective routine cleaning of all surfaces including benchtops, shelving, toys, door handles etc with help remove the germs from the surfaces. Detergent and water help to loosen the germs then they need to be rinsed away with clean water before allowing the surface to air dry so that it is harder for germs to survive and grow. Food grade sanitisers are also used within the service for meal preparation, serving and eating areas to ensure the spread of germs and contamination are eliminated
How Families Can Help with Limiting the Spread of Infection?
There are a number of ways that families can assist their service to reduce the spread of germs and infection. These include:
- Keeping your child home when they are unwell and only allowing them to return once all symptoms have subsided or you have met the exclusion period.
- Ensure that your child’s immunisations are up to date and that a copy of your Australian Immunisation Register is provided to your service on enrolment and updated every time they have immunisation.
- Reading and understanding the centre’s policies and procedures for the Management and Exclusion of Unwell Children. This will help guide you to know what is expected when you child is unwell at the centre and provides guidelines on the exclusion period for when your child has an infectious illness.
- Encourage effective hand washing and sneezing/cough etiquette in the home, using the methods discussed above.
- Boost your child’s immunity by offering a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables and iron-rich foods. A healthy diet combined with plenty of sleep is the key to a good strong immune system. If you are concerned that your child has a low immune system, it’s best to speak to your GP for advice.