Keeping Sick Children Out Of Child-care Centers Protects Others

Rebecca White, Gioe, Cheri M., Merrill, Thomas A.

Checking for fever

Giving medicine to child

Policies that exclude sick children from child-care centers may seem like a hassle to a working parent with a sick child, but those policies are put in place to protect other children. Parents who depend on child-care centers need to know the policies of their center and to keep in mind that those policies are designed to keep disease outbreaks from spreading to all children.

The cold and flu season is here, and that means young children are at risk of contracting contagious diseases such as influenza, diarrhea, strep throat and rashes – just to name a few. Even more, it means parents who depend on child-care centers need to know the policies their centers’ management have put in place to try to keep such problems from running rampant among the children in their care.

It’s natural for the stress level of a working parent to go up when a child gets ill.  Not only are you concerned about the welfare of your ill child, you also are concerned about the time you will have to miss from work because your child-care center will not care for your child when he or she is ill. But you need to keep in mind that child-care programs have sick child policies in place for the safety and protection of all the children they serve – and that those policies protect your child from other sick children when the roles are reversed.

The state Department of Social Services has minimum guidelines for child-care centers to follow concerning sick children, but it is the prerogative of the child-care facility to develop and follow even more stringent policies if they choose. Child-care programs are required to provide parents with a sick child policy that includes reasons for excluding children from care and for how long they should be excluded.  Typically, child-care programs follow the advice of most pediatricians – requiring that children be kept from care for a minimum of 24 hours or until fever free or until symptoms of the illness disappear. But there are many instances where germs may already have been spread to other children through nasal drip or saliva before any visible signs of the illness manifest.

Should visible signs of an illness, such as a fever or rash, manifest while a child is in the care of a child-care provider, the child must be isolated and the parent called to come and get the child. Many child-care programs will require a doctor’s note in order for children to return to care.

According to the Louisiana Department of Social Services, these are some of the reasons and the lengths of time children should be excluded from child care:

  • Unexplained rash – until rash is gone or with a doctor’s note saying it’s OK to return.
  • Fever (in excess of 101 degrees) – until child is fever free for 24 hours.
  • Diarrhea – until symptoms are gone or if it is contained by diaper.
  • Vomiting – until child is free of vomiting for 24 hours.
  • Strep throat – child may return 24 hours after first dose of antibiotic.
  • Chicken pox – once all pox have scabbed over and are not oozing liquid.

Of course, illnesses also require medications, and the Department of Social Services requires child-care programs to have a written policy regarding the dispensing of medicine. At least one staff person on site must be trained by DSS to administer medication, and that staff person is the only person qualified to dispense medicine. Many child-care programs will not administer over-the-counter drugs or fever-reducing medications at all. In addition, many child-care programs have adopted the policy of dispensing medication only one time a day. For example, they may have a policy of administering all medications at noon each day.

To minimize any inconvenience and eliminate such worries about medication, consult your physician about medication that needs to be administered only once or twice a day.  That way, parents can give the medication at home, and there won’t be any need for it to be done by the child-care providers.

The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It was funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.

3/17/2005 8:45:26 AM
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