Day care health risks
Children in day care centers are more likely to catch an infection than kids who do not attend day care. Children who go to day care are often around other kids who may be sick. However, being around the large number of germs in day care may actually improve your child's immune system in the long run.
Infection is spread most often by children putting dirty toys in their mouth. So, check your day care's cleaning practices. Teach your child to wash their hands before eating and after using the toilet. Keep your own children at home if they are sick.
INFECTIONS AND GERMS
Diarrhea and gastroenteritis are common at day care centers. These infections cause vomiting, diarrhea, or both.
- The infection is spread easily from child-to-child or from caregiver-to-child. It is common among children because they are less likely to wash their hands after using the toilet.
- Children who are attending day care may also get giardiasis, which is caused by a parasite. This infection causes diarrhea, stomach cramps, and gas.
Ear infections, colds, coughs, sore throats, and runny noses are common in all children, especially in the day care setting.
Children attending day care are at risk of getting hepatitis A. Hepatitis A is irritation and swelling (inflammation) of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus.
- It is spread by poor or no hand washing after going to the bathroom or changing a diaper, and then preparing food.
- In addition to good hand washing, day care staff and children should get the hepatitis A vaccine.
You can do a number of things to keep your child safe from infections. One is to keep your child up-to-date with routine vaccines (immunizations) to prevent both common and serious infections:
- To see the current recommendations, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website -- www.cdc.gov/vaccines. At every doctor visit, ask about the next recommended vaccines.
- Make sure your child has a flu shot every year after age 6 months.
Your child's day care center should have policies to help prevent the spread of germs and infections. Ask to see these policies before your child starts. Day care staff should be trained in how to follow these policies. In addition to proper hand washing, important policies include:
- Preparing food and changing diapers in different areas
- Making sure day care staff and children who attend the day care have up-to-date immunizations
- Rules about when children should stay home if they are sick
WHEN YOUR CHILD HAS A HEALTH PROBLEM
Staff may need to know:
- How to give medicines for conditions, such as asthma
- How to avoid allergy and asthma triggers
- How to take care of different skin conditions
- How to recognize when a chronic medical problem is getting worse
- Activities that may not be safe for the child
- How to contact your child's health care provider
You can help by creating an action plan with your provider and making sure your child's day care staff knows how to follow that plan.
Sosinsky LS, Gilliam WS. Childcare: how pediatricians can support children and families. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 17.
Waggoner-Fountain LA. Childcare and communicable diseases. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 174.
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.