While in a child care service children come into contact with many other children and adults. This increased contact can result in an increased chance of becoming ill. All services are required by legislation to have specific strategies in place to minimise the spread of infectious illnesses. These strategies will include specific hygiene procedures such as handwashing, cleaning toys and sanitising surfaces.
Why do children sometimes become ill when they are in child care?
Children are more likely to contract illnesses when they first start child care because they come into contact with a larger number of children and adults that they would not otherwise be exposed to in their own homes. Through play, nurture and exploration, children in group care settings have close physical contact with others and their environment. This means that children can be exposed to infectious illnesses through physical contact with other children, adults, toys and surfaces or through airborne illness such as coughing or sneezing.
Why should my child be excluded from care when they are ill?
The state Health department recommends and requires early education and care services to exclude ill children from the service. Part of the process of minimising the spread of illness is to prevent children from passing on their illness by excluding them from care. Services will also have their own individual policies regarding exclusion of sick children which are available for families to read. This practice benefits all of the children, families and staff of the service. Unwell children often need additional individual comfort and attention which can be difficult for staff to provide in a group care setting. Sick children will generally recover faster if they can rest and be cared for at home.
How can I protect my child from becoming ill at their service?
Immunisation is the most effective way to prevent serious childhood illnesses. Families are required to provide a copy of their child’s immunisation record. Families will not be permitted to enrol their child in an Early Childhood service if their child’s vaccinations are not up to date unless there is a medical exemption or similar which has been approved by the Australian Immunisation Register.
How do I know if my child is not well enough to go?
Any child with a contagious illness or disease should not attend their Early Childhood Service. Even if not contagious, children should also not attend if they have an illness which prevents them from comfortably participating in activities at the service.
Some children have ongoing medical needs that can be treated whilst at the service such as asthma or anaphylaxis. In these situations, services will formulate a plan for responding to signs of illness. It is also part of legislative requirements that Early Childhood Services have Educators with formal First Aid training.
What happens if my child gets ill at their service?
Early Childhood Educators are not medical practitioners and are not able to diagnose whether or not a child has an infectious illness. However, if a contagious illness is suspected, the service has the right to ask the family to collect their child as soon as possible, or not to bring the child in at all. The service may also request the family seek medical advice and obtain a medical certificate confirming the child is no longer infectious, before the child is allowed to return to the service.
What if my child needs medication?
Sometimes medication is required on an ongoing basis to treat an illness or condition, such as asthma. Medication may also be needed to help manage symptoms or promote recovery when children are ill. Over-the-counter medications, such as paracetamol, can mask the symptoms of a contagious illness and this is something that families and Educators need to consider when deciding if a child is fit to attend care. It is important that you talk to the Educators about the service’s policies on medication and discuss with them your child’s health needs. It is also important to note that numerous services have policies which do not allow the administration of over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol, without a doctor’s instructions. Educators are also required to strictly follow the instructions provided by a doctor’s script or on the medication label when administering medication.
While services and Educators take every reasonable precaution to prevent the spread of illness, it is not always possible to stop children from contracting a contagious illness. There will be times when children may need to be kept home due to sickness. Taking time off work or study to care for a sick child can sometimes be challenging. Getting paid leave from work and facing negative attitudes about leave in the workplace can sometimes cause stress for families. Having some options identified and a plan about how your family will care for ill children will minimise the difficulties, especially for working families.
Make sure that you speak with your child’s Educators if you have any concerns about your child’s health and remember that the services policies regarding illness and exclusion are there to protect your child as well as other children, families and staff.