The top 10 illnesses that keep kids home from child care

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  Published on Wednesday, 12 August 2020

The top 10 illnesses that keep kids home from child care

Library Home  >  Health, Wellbeing & Nutrition
  Published on Wednesday, 12 August 2020
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Winter isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The days are cold, the nights are long and to make things that bit more challenging, there are lots of lurgies (undetermined illnesses) doing the rounds.

It’s common for viruses, infections and bugs to jump from child to child during the winter months, and according to data collected from the KindyNow platform, 10 ailments are responsible for the majority of child care absences.

Here we list the culprits and give you some tips to help prevent the spread of illness in the childcare setting.

What ailments are most likely to keep kids home from care?

After looking at more than 11,000 childcare bookings that were marked as ‘absent due to illness’ in its system, KindyNow found that the following 10 ailments accounted for 61 per cent of absences over winter:

  1. The common cold
  2. Fever
  3. Cough
  4. Conjunctivitis
  5. Influenza (flu)
  6. Viral infection (other)
  7. Hand, foot and mouth disease
  8. Ear infection
  9. Gastroenteritis (gastro)
  10. Vomiting

Specifically, the common cold was attributed to 15 per cent of illness absences, one in 10 children were kept home because of a cough, and conjunctivitis was the reason for 5 per cent of children being reported absent.

This data was collated from over 600 services, so it gives a good indication of which ailments are most prevalent in the childcare environment.

That said, there are lots of other reasons why children might be kept home sick. All up, KindyNow found more than 70 medical reasons for non-attendance over winter, and The Sector reports that, this year, ‘The trend toward increased absences as a result of illness has surged as an advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.’

By June, KindyNow had already counted over 150,000 childcare bookings marked as absent, with the figure continuing to grow as winter progresses.

How can parents help prevent the spread of illness?

Although each illness comes with its own symptoms and level of contagiousness, here are three key things parents can do to limit the spread of illness in childcare centres and beyond:

  1. Keep your child home when they’re sick

    Illnesses spread easily when sick children cough, sneeze, rub their eyes, share toys/food/equipment and generally play in close proximity. For this reason, it’s important to keep your child home when they have an infectious illness.

There are recommended exclusion periods for conjunctivitis, diarrhoea, gastro, hand, foot and mouth disease, influenza and other ailments here, and Starting Blocks says, ‘As a general rule children should also not attend care if they have an illness that prevents them from comfortably participating in activities at the service.’

They explain that, ‘Health and regulating authorities recommend, and in some cases require, early education and care services to exclude ill children,’ and in some states, directors of child care centres must report ‘notifiable’ diseases (like measles) to the government.

You should check your child care provider’s policy on illness before dropping your little one off with symptoms, and make a contingency plan for sick days well before your child actually gets sick.

Keep in mind, too, that if your child is absent due to illness, you may need to provide a medical certificate showing that they’re no longer contagious before they can return to their service.

      2. Get your child immunised 

Although there isn’t a vaccine available for every ailment, Starting Blocks says that, ‘Immunisation is the most effective way to prevent some serious childhood illnesses.’

This year, the influenza vaccine is free for children aged six months to under five years, and it makes health sense and financial sense to immunise your child.

The government also has a ‘no jab, no pay’ policy around child care fee assistance, and many services require children to be fully immunised to enrol (unless a medical reason prevents this).

  1. Practice good health and hygiene

    COVID-19 has taught us a lot about soap, water and hand sanitiser, and thorough handwashing is vital whether we are in the midst of a pandemic or not.

    To help stop the spread of illness, we should all wash our hands regularly and dry them well, including after using the bathroom, before and after eating, and after coughing or sneezing.

Follow handwashing procedures at childcare drop-off and pick-up and supervise your child’s handwashing to ensure they use enough soap and running water and wash all the bits of their hands (including between the fingers).

Cough and sneeze etiquette are also key. Teach your child to cough/sneeze into a tissue or their elbow, rather than into the air or another person’s face, and make sure they bin the tissue and wash their hands straight afterwards.

All in all, sick days are important for your child’s recuperation and for your service’s healthy operation, immunisation is a powerful safeguard against serious illness, and good hygiene is essential in preventing the spread of lurgies. So, let’s all work together to limit the impact of common sniffles and other ailments in the childcare environment.

Further reading

CareforKids.com.au children’s health in child care tool kit

Researchers one step closer to eliminating children’s ear infections

How child care centres prevent the spread of gastro

Hand, foot and mouth disease and how it affects youngsters

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Wednesday, 21 October 2020

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