If your child is in daycare, he's probably sick more times than you care to think about, yet coming down with another cold or ear infection might be good for him. According to a recent Australian study, babies and toddlers in daycare were sick more frequently but were less likely to fall ill once they started school.
Many of the typical illnesses in daycare settings, including the common cold, stomach bugs, conjunctivitis (pink eye) and hand, foot and mouth disease, are caused by viruses. (Ear infections can be caused by either a virus or bacteria.
For example, the common cold can cause swelling and congestion in the nose and throat and in a toddler's tiny ear tubes, which causes the earache.) These bugs are easily spread through direct and indirect contact between toddlers nearby, who are likely wiping their noses, sneezing and coughing while sharing toys and food—no matter how many times the daycare workers clean the diaper-change station or disinfect toys that have been drooled on.
How sick is too sick for daycare?
Depending on what bug your little one has caught, he may want to stay home and cuddle, especially if he doesn't feel well enough to participate in daycare activities. And there are times when your sick baby or toddler poses a risk to other children and could spread a virus or a more serious illness, like COVID-19, which often only resembles the common cold in children. So here are the symptoms to consider:
Running a fever is an obvious indication that your baby or toddler is not well enough for daycare. If your baby has a temperature of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (sometimes with other symptoms like a sore throat, congestion, a cough, aches, chills or vomiting), he needs to stay home and recover. The same holds for toddlers. Your daycare and your pediatrician will also likely want you to get your child tested for COVID-19 if he has a fever.
If your baby is 3 months old or younger, a fever of 100.4°F or higher requires urgent care, and you need to call your pediatrician immediately. Wait until your child's temp has gone down without the help of fever-reducing medications like acetaminophen (and until you get a negative result on a COVID test) before he returns to daycare. If the test is positive, your child will have to stay home and quarantine for 14 days.
Flu-like cough, runny nose, sore throat or high temperature
If your child has a cough, runny nose, sore throat or fever when there's a flu outbreak in your area, it's best to keep him home until the illness passes. Getting a flu shot is your best protection against the flu. Once your child is 6 months old, make sure you get him a flu shot too. And make sure all your child's caretakers have had the flu vaccine too. You will also likely be asked to keep your child home with these symptoms until you get him tested for COVID-19, and it comes back negative, as cough, sore throat and fever can be among the symptoms of the virus.
Sometimes being sick can cause your baby or toddler major discomfort, which leads to irritability. What would you do if you felt terrible and couldn't put it into words? This calls for a sick day with tons of snuggle time and an extra-long nap.
It's not easy to tell when infants have a serious stomach ache because they don't know you, though older babies and toddlers may be able to communicate what's wrong. Typically, if a baby cries persistently, tenses up and grabs his abdominal area, he may be in pain. Blood in the stool and green vomit are also indicators that you need to seek immediate medical attention.
If your baby or toddler has thrown up more than twice in the past 24 hours, it's best to skip daycare. Dehydration is the most common complication associated with diarrhea and vomiting, which is another reason your infant or tot should be at home under close supervision. If he can't keep fluids down, consider offering sips of Pedialyte or other rehydration beverages. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and vomiting can also be signs of COVID-19 in babies and toddlers, so you might consider getting your child tested if the tummy troubles persist.
Suffering from diarrhea can be caused by any number of illnesses or other triggers, but if your baby or toddler hasn't had any foods added to his diet that could lead to digestive issues, diarrhea may be a sign that he's sick. If it's serious enough that it leaks out of his diaper (or a potty-trained child has trouble making it to the bathroom without an accident) and could cause a blow-out at daycare, your little one needs to stay home.
Sore or rash
Mouth sores that cause excessive drooling may mean that your baby or toddler has an infection that could spread to other children. Mouth sores can be caused by several conditions, from hand, foot and mouth disease to a simple canker sore. But unless a doctor has determined that your little one isn't contagious, it's best to keep him home. Skin sores (especially those excreting fluid) and rashes associated with fevers are all signs of an infection or illness that other kids could catch.
Some doctor-diagnosed conditions require your child to spend some time at home recovering, including strep throat or other streptococcal infections, head lice, scabies and ringworm. The same holds for COVID-19, which may present as nothing more than the common cold in babies and toddlers and will require you to keep your child quarantined at home for 14 days. If your baby or toddler contracts a super-contagious, vaccine-preventable disease like chickenpox, rubella, pertussis, mumps, measles or Hepatitis A, he must be isolated from other children. Talk to your doctor (and, in some cases, the health department) about how long your little one needs to stay home. Getting your child vaccinated is extremely important, as serious illnesses like chickenpox, rubella, measles, and mumps are entirely preventable.
Unresponsive and difficulty breathing
If your baby or toddler is unresponsive and seems to have trouble breathing, that's a sign of a serious illness that requires a trip to the emergency room.
How Many Colds Per Year Is Normal for Children?
Dr Gellner: Some children seem to always have sniffles. They get one cold after another after another. And many parents wonder, "Isn't my child having too many colds? Is there something wrong with their immune system?" The truth is, children start to get colds after about six months of age when the immunity they received from their mom fades, and they have to build up their immune system.
Babies, toddlers, and preschoolers get about seven to eight colds a year. And during school age, they average five to six colds a year. Teenagers finally reach an adult level of four colds a year.
And in addition to colds, children get lovely diarrhea illnesses, with or without vomiting, two to three times a year. Some children tend to get high fevers with most of their colds or have a sensitive tummy and develop diarrhea with the cold symptoms.
Why Does My Child Get So Many Colds?
The main reason your child is getting all those infections is that they are being exposed to new viruses all the time. The viruses are everywhere, no matter how much you sanitise and clean. There are at least 200 different cold viruses, and they're getting tricky, mutating all the time.
Your child's body will build up defences or immunity against these viruses when exposed to them, but this takes time. It takes many years to build up immunity to viruses. Your child will be exposed to more if they attend daycare or preschool. Older brothers and sisters are also great vectors to bring home a virus from school.
Colds are more common in large families as the virus makes its rounds through the house and back again. The rate of colds triples in the winter. Not because of the cold air, but because people tend to spend more time indoors in crowded areas, breathing re-circulated air. Smoking in the home also increases your child's susceptibility to colds.
How to Manage a Sick Day
If you decide that your child needs to stay home, you may face many additional challenges. For example, do you have to take a sick day? If you're a stay-at-home mom, how can you balance caring for your other kids when one child is sick? Here are some ways you can prepare for sick school days.
Talk to Your Employer Ahead of Time
Discuss possibilities with your employer as flu season approaches. For example, ask about working from home and attending meetings over the phone or the Internet. Make sure you have the equipment you need at home. A computer, high-speed Internet connection, fax machine, and printer may make it easier for you to manage work tasks from your home.
Ask About Your Options
You should also find out how many sick days you have at work so you can balance your time off. You may even want to ask your employer about the possibility of taking a day off without using up your sick time. Another option is to trade off at-home duties with your partner if you both work.
Have a Backup Plan
Call a family member, friend, or babysitter to see if they can stay with your child. Having someone available to help at a moment's notice can be invaluable when you can't stay home from work to care for your child.
Designate a shelf or cupboard for over-the-counter medications, vapour rubs, extra tissues, and antibacterial wipes, so you're ready for flu season. Keeping these items in one place is also helpful for anyone who comes to your house to care for your child.
Be Diligent About Hygiene
Make sure your child washes their hands frequently and always coughs or sneezes into their elbow. This will help prevent them from spreading the virus to other people. It's also important to make sure everyone in the home drinks plenty of fluids and gets sufficient sleep.
Other preventive measures include:
- avoiding sharing towels, dishes, and utensils with the infected person
- limiting close contact with the infected person as much as possible
- using antibacterial wipes to clean shared surfaces, such as doorknobs and sinks
How to Keep Your Child From Getting Sick at Daycare
Preschools and child care centres can provide valuable opportunities for learning and socialisation in a safe and supportive environment. However, protecting your children against the minor illnesses that can arise in these educational facilities can help them derive the greatest benefit from their early childhood experiences and reduce stress and worry at home. Here are five proven strategies for helping your child learn to share toys and games without sharing viruses and bacteria into the bargain.
Despite recent controversies, vaccination remains the most effective way to protect against many serious childhood illnesses, including the following:
- Mumps, measles and rubella
- Hepatitis B
- Diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis
Most major public health organisations endorse vaccines to prevent children from contracting or spreading these potentially dangerous diseases. However, following the advice of your pediatrician can help you reduce the risks for your child and the children with whom they have contact.
Encouraging your toddler or preschool-aged child to eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits can help to boost their immune system. This can significantly reduce the number of colds and flu bugs your child picks up and can even protect the rest of your family against these minor ailments. Choosing foods high in antioxidants and carotenoids can be a good first step toward eating healthier staying well for your entire family.
Keep Shared Toys Clean
Regular cleaning and sanitation of toys and other shared items in preschool and child care environments can help to prevent the transmission of colds and flu among younger children. This is especially critical for toddlers two and under; since nearly everything finds its way to their mouths. Keeping toys and plastic surfaces clean and germ-free can reduce the risk of disease transmission in these centres for early childhood education.
Enforce Regular Hand-Washing
Teaching your little ones to wash their hands before and after every meal and at regular intervals throughout their day can reduce the build-up of germs on skin surfaces and can keep children safer when in contact with others in their peer group. Hand sanitisers can also be used to supplement hand-washing after active play with other children at home or in a child care facility. Ensuring that staff members at your child's preschool or child care centre also maintain best practices regarding hand-washing and sanitation can be critical to your child's ongoing health and well-being.
Choose Facilities with Compassionate and Careful Sick Policies
When children fall ill, it is critical to provide separate and safe areas before parents or guardians pick them up. This can protect well children against exposure to the disease while allowing sick children the chance to rest and recuperate. Discovery Point, for example, maintains a "boo room" for children that provides a safe and supportive environment for toddlers who are feeling under the weather and need a little extra attention before their parents arrive.
The experts at our Child Development Centers can provide a healthy and safe environment for children during the most critical formative stages of their early childhood. By entrusting your child to these knowledgeable professionals, you can ensure the most positive learning experiences while reducing the spread of common childhood ailments and diseases through their early childhood educational careers.
How to Know When It's Safe to Send Your Child Back to School
It may be easy to know when your child is too sick to go to school, but it is often difficult to determine when they are ready to return. Sending your child back too soon can delay their recovery and make other children in the school more susceptible to the virus as well. Below are some guidelines that may help you decide whether or not your child is ready to return to school.
Once the fever has been controlled for over 24 hours without medication, the child is usually safe to return to school. However, your child may still need to stay home if they are continuing to experience other symptoms, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or a persistent cough.
Your child may return to school after taking medication the doctor prescribed for a minimum of 24 hours, as long as they don't have a fever or other serious symptoms. Ensure that the school nurse and your child's teacher are aware of these medications and their proper doses.
Only Mild Symptoms Present
Your child can also go back to school if they're only experiencing a runny nose and other mild symptoms. Ensure to provide tissues for them and give them an over-the-counter medicine that can help control the remaining signs.
Attitude and Appearance Improve
If your child is looking and acting like they are feeling much better, then it is typically safe to go back to school.
In the end, you may have to rely on your parental intuition to make the final call. You know your child better than anyone, so you'll be able to tell when they're feeling better. Do they look too miserable to go to school? Are they playing and acting normally, or are they happy to curl up in a chair with a blanket? Again, trust your intuition to make the best decision. If you have any doubts, always remember to ask others, such as the school nurse or your child's pediatrician. They will be glad to offer you advice.
The only way to prevent kids from getting sick is to wash their hands several times a day (or have their daycare provider help when you're not there) and to teach them healthy hand hygiene when they're old enough to catch on. Teaching kids to “dab,” or sneeze into their elbow, is a good one to start with.
Young children who are in daycare very often get frequent upper respiratory tract infections, including colds and secondary ear infections. In fact, experts estimate that the average child gets six to eight viral upper respiratory tract infections each year.
Starting daycare can be a stressful time, for both babies and parents alike. Some babies will adapt quickly, while others will cry every morning for many weeks.