Keeping Children Healthy in Child Care
I often hear parents say “I do not want my children in child care because all they do is get sick. “ As this may have some truth in it, people and parents need to understand the roller coaster of childhood illness is going to happen inevitably, whether it is a two year old in preschool or a 5 year old in kindergarten. Children in child care especially the first year do tend to be sick more frequently, however they are less likely to be sick once they hit elementary school, as they have built up their immune system.There Is actually quite a bit of research on stronger immune systems in children that attended child care versus children that did not.
Childhood illness are not “born” in child care centers. When it is cold, flu, strep and any viral season these “bugs” are everywhere not just in child care. The same illnesses can be caught at the park, grocery store and even carried into the home by school aged children. Many childhood illnesses/viruses are contagious before the onset of a fever- that’s what makes the incidents of child care illnesses seem high. Many times children play in any setting and have an illness that shows no signs or symptoms until 7-14 after exposure. Again, exposure happens in plenty of places other than the child care setting.
Childhood illness is inevitable, however there are things you can do to help support a healthy immune system in children:
1. Plenty of sleep. Children need around 10 hours of sleep per night. The actual amount of hours may vary from child to child. Lack of sleep can play a role in growth and immune system function. Sleep deprivation in children can also attribute to learning and behavior problems.
2. Healthy eating- Proper nutrition is key not only for an immune boost but brain development and overall growth. Diets high in fruits and vegetables help provide the body with key nutrients to aid in growth as well as immune function. Vitamin C rich foods include citrus fruits, green and red peppers, tomatoes, dark leafy greens and broccoli. There are products on the market if you feel your children are not getting adequate nutrition. You can always speak to your doctor or dietitian if you feel your children lack nutrition.
3. Clean hands- You cannot start earlier enough to teach children to wash their hands well and frequently. Many adults do not wash their hands enough, being a good role model will help here. Hand washing is so important as this is how we transfer germs around. Young children also love putting their hands in their mouths. The cleaner our hands the less likely to eat germs. You can teach children to sing the whole ABC song while they wash their hands to assure they did an adequate job.
4. Flu shots- A flu shot not only may help prevent your children ( and yourself) from getting the flu, it prevents you from being a carrier of the flu virus which is important if you have people with fragile health conditions around you.
5. Use a humidifier- This keeps mucus membranes moist- keeping nasal passages clean is key as well. Saline water rinses and a hot steamy shower works wonders.
6. Essential oils- These are natural aromatic plants that are humanity’s oldest medicine. These can be used topically, aromatically and internally. Many essential oils have immune-strengthening properties.
To sum things up, children that attend child care in the first 5 years of life do initially get sick more often, however this early exposure to germs does help build their immune systems. It is all our jobs to keep kids healthy and safe, but getting childhood illnesses is just one of those things we all have to go through.