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Sep 19, 2023 5 min read

How to Craft a Daycare Sick Policy

Leah Woodbury By: Leah Woodbury
Tucker the penguin is sick in bed

A crucial aspect of ensuring a safe and healthy child care environment is having a daycare sick policy for the health and safety of the children entrusted to your care, as well as your staff.

A daycare sickness policy offers guidance to parents, ensures consistency in managing illnesses and helps prevent the spread of contagious diseases.

For kids whose first year of child care is during infancy, bouts of illness may be even more frequent, according to healthychildren.org from the American Academy of Pediatrics. They may have 8 to 12 more colds than a child cared for at home without exposure to siblings or other children.

Let’s take a look at some of the key components of daycare sick policies and examples that will help you craft your own policy.

What is a Daycare Sickness Policy?

A daycare sickness policy, also known as an exclusion for illness policy, is a set of guidelines and rules that outline how your daycare center handles children who are unwell or exhibit symptoms of illness

It serves as a roadmap for staff, parents and caregivers to provide clarity on when it’s appropriate for children to attend your child care center and when they should stay home.

Four Reasons Your Daycare Needs a Sick Policy

Mother cares for sick baby in bed

Child Safety: The most critical reason for having a sick policy is to protect the health and well-being of the children in your care. Sick children can spread illnesses to others, and some illnesses can be severe, especially in young children.

Prevent Outbreaks: A well-crafted sick policy helps prevent the spread of contagious diseases within your daycare. It minimizes the risk of outbreaks, which can lead to more sick children and increased absenteeism among both children and staff.

Parental Guidance: A clear child care sick policy provides parents with guidance on when to keep their child at home. It helps parents understand their responsibilities in maintaining a healthy environment for all children.

Staff Protection: Your staff is also at risk of getting sick when exposed to contagious illnesses. A sick policy helps protect your staff by ensuring they are not unnecessarily exposed to sick children.

Should You Include a Fever Limit in Your Sick Policy?

Including a fever limit in your daycare sick policy is a common practice. Typically, this limit is set at 100.4°F or higher. However, you should consult with health care professionals or local health authorities to determine the appropriate threshold for your region.

The inclusion of a fever limit is essential because high fevers are often a sign of a contagious illness. Children with fevers are more likely to be contagious and should be kept home until their fever has subsided for a specified period, usually 24 hours without fever-reducing medication.

A mother takes the temperature of her child who is wrapped up in a blanket

Daycare Sick Policy Examples

Here are some common elements to include in your daycare sick policy:

Symptoms: List common symptoms (fever, diarrhea, vomiting, severe coughing) that require a child to stay home.

Exclusion Period: Define the period during which a child must stay home after exhibiting symptoms (such as being symptom-free for 24 hours).

Communication: Outline how parents should notify the daycare of their child’s illness and the expected duration of absence.

Return Requirements: Specify any conditions for a child’s return to daycare, such as being symptom-free for a certain period or providing a doctor’s note.

Staff Guidelines: Explain how sick staff members should handle their own illnesses and when they should stay home.

Cleaning Procedures: Detail your center’s cleaning and disinfection protocols for preventing the spread of illness.

Also, include a copy of your sick policy in your enrollment paperwork and periodically email parents and remind them of your child care center’s sick policy. And post your sick policy on your website for all to see.

Do Home Daycares Need a Sick Policy?

Yes, home daycares should also have a sick policy in place. The same principles apply, but the policies may be adapted to the specific circumstances of a home daycare. 

Parents need guidance on when to keep their children home, and caregivers need clear instructions on how to handle sick children to protect themselves, other children,and parents.

Don’t Forget About Your Staff! 

Woman stays home from work because she is sick

In addition to a sick policy for children, it’s equally important to have a daycare worker sick policy. This policy should address:

Reporting Illness: Procedures for staff to report their illnesses promptly to the management.

Leave and Pay: Clarify the rules regarding sick leave, paid time off, and compensation during illness.

Return-to-Work Guidelines: Specify when staff members can return to work after an illness and whether a doctor’s note is required.

Staff Vaccinations: Encourage staff to get vaccinated against preventable diseases and outline any vaccination requirements.

How Procare Can Help!

A young girl smiles at the camera while showing off a pink bandage on her arm

No matter the size of your child care program, a well-crafted sick policy is a cornerstone of responsible child care and should be in place. 

Make it easy for parents to tell you that they’re keeping sick kids home by using the Procare child care mobile app, which makes it easy to stay connected with families, teachers and staff with two-way messaging.

And with Procare’s immunization tracking and reports capabilities, you can record student immunization dates, send reminders and more! 

Want to know how your center is doing at engaging with families and keeping the lines of communication open? Take the Procare family engagement quiz to find out!

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Leah Woodbury

Leah Woodbury is the head of content at Procare Solutions. Her job includes writing about topics that matter to child care professionals and finding ways to help them do their important work. She’s a mom of two who loves getting updates about what her preschooler is doing during the day via the Procare child care mobile app!

Leah Woodbury