Avoiding Germs during Peak Flu Season: Reducing the Spread of Illness in Child Care


Parents and child care providers can help prevent the spread of flu and other illnesses. The single best way to prevent serious illnesses is through vaccines given during childhood, including the flu vaccine. Everyone 6 months and older needs a flu vaccine every year. There are other good health habits that can help stop the spread of germs, like covering your cough, washing your hands frequently, and staying home when sick

In Tennessee the flu’s peak season generally occurs between late December and early March. Besides encouraging healthy habits that can help stop the spread of germs, there are actions parents can take to help stop the spread of germs at their children’s school or child care (day care) center.

·         Find out about plans your child’s school, child care program, or college has if a flu outbreak or another illness occurs and whether flu vaccinations are offered on-site.

·         Make sure your child’s school, child care program, or college routinely cleans frequently touched objects and surfaces, and that they have a good supply of tissues, soap, paper towels, alcohol-based hand rubs, and disposable wipes on-site.

·         Ask how sick students and staff are separated from others and who will care for them until they can go home.

Young toddlers and infants are the most at risk for serious flu complications. Since flu infections and other illnesses spread easily when children are grouped with other children, such as in a child care center, there are steps a child care facility should take to promote good hygiene. . Parents can ask the child care facility these questions:

How often to employees wash hands?

If your child-care center doesn't have a sink in every room, look for bottles of hand sanitizer. If employees have to leave the room to clean their hands, they may be less likely to do it.

How clean are the toys?

Many child care centers have a policy that toys are cleaned and sanitized at least once a day. However, guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that every time a toy is placed in a child's mouth, it should be set aside until it can be cleaned and disinfected.

What’s their sick kid policy?

Polices on when sick kids should stay home differ among child and daycare centers. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, and the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education recommend a child should stay home for certain reasons, which include:

·         A fever above 101° F accompanied by behavior change or other symptoms (sore throat, rash, vomiting, diarrhea)

·         Diarrhea that can't be contained in a diaper or diarrhea that causes “accidents” in a toilet-trained child

·         Vomiting more than two times in a 24-hour period

·         Hand, foot and mouth disease: (HFMD) is a common childhood illness and highly contagious. It may begin with a fever and irritability, followed by blisters in the mouth and on hands and feet. Kids with HFMD      should stay home until they have no fever and their sores have healed.

·         Cold or flu: colds can last for more than a week, which makes it difficult to keep a child home for the duration of the illness. When the cold is at its worst, with heavy coughing and lots of nasal discharge, kids may  need to stay home and rest. Kids who have influenza or a flu-like illness should stay home until they have not had a fever for 24 hours without fever-reducing medications.

In the battle against germs and fighting the flu, parents should keep in mind they can’t protect their children from every germ or illness. Children get sick often during the first few years of life as their bodies are building immunity to infections, whether they’re in a child care center or not.