This blog was originally posted on Oct. 21, 2021, and was updated on Dec. 2, 2022, with new information on current virus trends.
Temperatures are dropping across the country, and that means cold and flu season. Is your child care center prepared?
This year is especially tough, with health officials warning of a potential “tripledemic” of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) as flu cases climb and COVID-19 lingers … to the extent of overwhelming hospital emergency departments, according to a recent article by Yale Medicine.
Doctors are seeing record levels of RSV in young children, said Dr. Scott Roberts, a Yale Medicine infectious diseases specialist, in the story. He also said that while COVID-19 is still the most prevalent virus in the community, it’s on a downward trajectory while RSV and flu cases are increasing.
As a child care professional, it’s important that you stay healthy, as well as the children in your care.
While there’s no way to completely rid your daycare of germs, there are plenty of ways to minimize them and help avoid widespread illness.
Keep reading to learn five ways to fight viruses in your child care center!
1. Commit to Regular Hand Washing
How often do you wash your hands? If you want to keep your daycare as healthy as you can this winter, the answer should be that you’re scrubbing your hands all the time.
It seems simple, but every qualified expert agrees that regular hand washing is key to flu prevention because our hands are constantly exposed to bacteria and viruses. Hand washing kills these nasty bugs before they have a chance to infect — if you do it right.
The CDC recommends this four-step process when washing hands:
- Get your hands wet, then apply clean bar soap or liquid soap.
- Rub your hands together vigorously, making sure to scrub all surfaces.
- Continue scrubbing your hands for 20 seconds to remove all germs.
- Thoroughly rinse your hands and dry them using a clean towel.
Of course, washing your own hands isn’t enough. You need to make sure your daycare kids are washing their hands, too — especially before eating and after using the bathroom, playing outside, petting an animal or coughing/sneezing into their hands.
The trick is to make the hand washing process fun for your kids. Sing them a song or tell them a story while you scrub their little fingers. Give them a small treat after they’re done. If you can turn hand washing into an enjoyable activity, your daycare will be less susceptible to germs.
2. Disinfect Toys and Surfaces Daily
Your hands aren’t the only things you need to keep clean. Toys, doorknobs, tabletops, floors and other surfaces collect germs, too, and need to be disinfected on a regular basis.
Here’s are some tips for getting rid of those germs:
- Disinfect toys after each use: When playtime is over, ask one of your teachers to disinfect the toys in your center’s toy bin.
- Clean your diaper changing areas: If you care for small children, thoroughly clean each diaper changing station after it’s been used with a safe disinfectant.
- Take out the trash frequently: Kids are notorious for getting into things they shouldn’t including bacteria-filled waste baskets. Take out the trash frequently so that they don’t have a chance to dig through it and catch the flu bug by accident.
- Deep clean at the end of each day: The last thing you want to do at the end of a long, tiring day is more work. But deep cleaning such as mopping floors and scrubbing counters will help kill germs and prevent the flu from spreading through your daycare.
Don’t forget, disinfectants can be dangerous, especially to children. Make sure to buy kid-friendly products and keep them away from your little ones at all times.
3. Teach Children Healthy Habits
Part of your job as a child care provider is to educate the next generation … and kids need to be taught proper hygiene and healthy habits so they don’t spread germs.
For example, teach your daycare kids to sneeze into the crook of their arm, or better yet, into a tissue so that they don’t get germs on their hands. Help kids understand why hand washing is so important and show them how to do it correctly.
If you teach your daycare kids proper hygiene and instill healthy habits in them, your center will experience far fewer virus outbreaks.
You’ll also be less stressed because the burden of preventing illnesses won’t fall to you alone. Since stress suppresses the immune system, you’re more likely to get sick when you feel anxious, so stress management is an important strategy as well.
4. Implement a Clear Sick Policy
One of the best ways to keep your child care center healthy is to keep sick kids away from it. To do this, you need to implement a clear sick policy.
Parents shouldn’t have to ask themselves if they should take their child to daycare when the child is sick. They should be able to read your center’s sick policy and know exactly what the right answer is. This means you also need a reliable way to distribute your sick policy to parents.
Here are a few ideas for you:
- Include a copy of your sick policy in your enrollment paperwork.
- Print your sick policy and give it to parents at the beginning of the year.
- Periodically email parents and remind them of your center’s sick policy.
- Post your sick policy on your website for all to see.
Remember, your sick policy applies to teachers as well. If your staff is feeling under the weather, ask them to stay home. This is why having backup and alternative help is vital.
5. Educate Parents on Best Practices
When it comes to flu prevention in daycare settings, you’re the expert. So it’s your job to educate parents on prevention best practices.
Communicate with parents on a regular basis via in-person conversations and email newsletters. Share tips they can use at home to keep their kids healthy. If you’re able, put together a brochure full of flu prevention strategies, including those listed in this blog post, and hand them out to parents.
You might want to educate parents on the safety and effectiveness of flu vaccines as well. That way they have the information they need to make an informed decision and can get one for themselves and their family members if they see fit.
You and the parents you serve should work together to beat the flu. The best way to do this is to share your knowledge with parents so that they can implement healthy habits and keep their kids as healthy as possible while away from your child care center.
How Software Helps Staying Healthy
Using Procare Solutions software is a way to simplify doing health checks in your child care center and to log those checks throughout the day.
Examples include Procare Online’s “name to face” functionality, which allows teachers and staff to track a variety of activities, including health checks. Child care staff can easily go into the platform and select the “Health Check” option, where they can include information like symptoms, temperature and more. Staff also have the ability to run reports. You can learn more here.
And the Health Check extra feature on Procare Desktop takes the ability to log health checks throughout the day, something offered by each of Procare’s child care software solutions, to a new level – it can track staff health checks as well.
Each time you run the Extra feature and import a file into Procare, the information will be added to the employee’s log notes as one entry for the date of the import:
It’s a way for health screening questions to be imported for child care center employees, such as details including the staff member’s temperature or any symptoms they may be experiencing. And it allows the answers of a health questionnaire completed by a staff member to be imported directly into the software.
Check out this blog to learn more about what you can do on each platform!
Have questions? Request a demo to see how software from Procare can help you get through this cold and flu season!