When your child first starts day care or preschool, you might feel like they are spending more time at home sick than they are spending in care. A recent research study has shown that this is, in fact, quite true. Children who start day care in a large centre are sick more often when compared to ones in a small centre or who don’t attend day care at all. But don’t be concerned, there is good news to come. These same children who spend more time being sick early on, spend less time being sick once they reach primary school. It is then that the ones who haven’t been exposed to all of the germs from a large group of kids begin to fall ill more often. In conclusion, all children will get sick often as their immune system matures. It’s just that some will get it over with in the earlier years while others notice it more when they are a little bit older.
If your child has just started day care and you’d like to stop them from being continuously sick, especially in winter, here are some tips to try to keep the sniffles to a minimum:
A healthy lifestyle will give your child the best chance against getting sick. A child’s immune system will start off weak and will get stronger as they grow, but there are things you can do to help this process along.
Give them a diet high in fruit and vegetables, as well as plenty of iron-rich food. It’s not always easy getting healthy food into kids, so think about using some child-friendly vitamins when you feel their diet is lacking.
Also make sure they are getting plenty of sleep, as being tired will mean they get run-down and sick more easily.
Make sure the centre is clean
When choosing a day care or preschool you should enquire about their cleaning service. It is best if they have employed someone who has experience with cleaning in childcare centres, as they will know the ‘hot spots’ for germs and what to focus on with their cleaning routines.
All toys need to be cleaned regularly, as well as furniture, windows, equipment and of course the floors.
Confirm that staff follow basic hygiene rules such as; washing their hands thoroughly after changing nappies, wiping noses or going to the bathroom. There should also be access to hand sanitiser for the staff.
Teach your children about hygienic practises from an early age. They should be in the habit of washing their hands with soap and water every time they use the bathroom, come inside from outdoor play or just before they plan on eating.
If they start to develop a cough or a sneeze, teach them to cover their mouths with the inside of their elbows.
Children will always put things in their mouths without a thought to how dirty the item may be, but try to teach them not to. It may feel like a losing battle but they will eventually start to understand what you’re saying and the sooner items stop going into their mouths the better.
Break the cycle
The best way of preventing children from getting continuously sick is to break the cycle. This means not sending children to day care if they have a fever or a runny nose. Most centres will send a child home if they start presenting with a fever, but by this stage a child is likely to already have been contagious. So if parents are vigilant about noticing if their child looks like they are starting to get sick, it can really help stop the spread of germs before it’s too late.
If your child has diarrhoea, has vomited within the last 24hrs, is unusually tired or clingy, sounds like they are having difficulty breathing or if they have a rash, then please keep them home.
Wait a little longer
Aside from trying to break the cycle within the day care centre, you can also break the cycle with your own child. Keeping a kid home when they are unwell is not just about stopping the spread of germs to others, but it’s also about building their immune system back up to optimal level. Even when they appear well, a child’s immune system will still be weakened for a while longer. This means they are more likely to pick up absolutely anything that is going around. So if it feels like your child has had cold on top of cold, you could be right. They catch a cold, and as they improve with energy levels and they go back to school, their lowered immune system is compromised and they get sick again before they’ve had a chance to fully recover from the first cold. To end this cycle, keep them home for longer than you feel is necessary the next time they are sick. This isn’t possible for everyone due to work commitments but if you can manage it, it will make a big difference to the length of time they stay healthy before the next bug strikes.