Be Child Care Aware: Policies That Exclude Sick Children Protect Others

Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A.  |  4/21/2005 11:57:40 PM

News You Can Use For January 2004

The cold and flu season is here, and that means young children are at risk of contracting contagious diseases such as influenza, diarrhea, strep throat and rashes – just to name a few.

Even more, it means parents who depend on child-care centers need to know the policies their centers’ management have put in place to try to keep such problems from running rampant among the children in their care.

"As a working parent, when your child becomes sick your stress level increases," says LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe. "Not only are you concerned about the welfare of your ill child, you also are concerned about the time you will have to miss from work because your child-care center will not care for your child when he or she is ill."

Gioe points out that child-care programs have sick child policies in place for the safety and protection of the children they serve.

"The state Department of Social Services has minimum guidelines for child-care centers to follow, but it is the prerogative of the child-care facility to develop and follow more stringent policies if they choose," Gioe says.

The LSU AgCenter expert points out child-care programs are required to provide parents with a sick child policy that includes reasons for excluding children from care and for how long they should be excluded.

"Typically, child-care programs follow the advice of most pediatricians – requiring that children be kept from care for a minimum of 24 hours or until fever free or until symptoms of the illness disappear," Gioe says. "But there are many instances where germs may already have been spread to other children through nasal drip or saliva before any visible signs of the illness manifest.

"Should visible signs of an illness, such as a fever or rash, manifest while a child is in the care of a child-care provider, the child must be isolated and the parent called to come and get the child," she explains, adding, "Many child-care programs will require a doctor’s note in order for children to return to care."

According to the Department of Social Services, here are some of the reasons children should be excluded from child care and for how long:

Unexplained rash – until rash is gone or with a doctor’s note.

Fever (in excess of 101 degrees) – until child is fever free for 24 hours.

Diarrhea – until symptoms are gone or if it is contained by diaper.

Vomiting – until child is free of vomiting for 24 hours.

Strep throat – child may return 24 hours after first dose of antibiotic.

Chicken pox – once all pox have scabbed over and are not oozing liquid.

Of course, illnesses also require medications, and the Department of Social Services also requires child-care programs to have a written policy regarding the dispensing of medicine.

"At least one staff person on site must be trained by DSS to administer medication, and that staff person is the only person qualified to dispense medicine," Gioe explains, adding, "Many child-care programs will not administer over-the-counter drugs or fever-reducing medications."

In addition, Gioe says many child-care programs have adopted the policy of dispensing medication only one time a day. For example, they may have a policy of administering all medications at noon each day, she says.

"While these policies may inconvenience you, keep in mind they are for the safety of your child," stresses LSU AgCenter family development specialist Dr. Becky White, who heads the AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" initiative. "Know your child-care center’s sick child policy."

To minimize any inconvenience and eliminate such worries about medication, Gioe also says to consult your physician about medication that needs to be administered only once or twice a day. "That way, parents can give the medication at home, and there won’t be any need for it to be done by the child-care providers," she says.

For more information about the regulations of the Department of Social Services, visit www.dss.state.la.us – or for information on a variety of issues related to family life, visit www.lsuagcenter.com.

The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.

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Contacts:     Becky White at (225) 578-3921 or bwhite@agcenter.lsu.edu
                   Cheri Gioe at (225) 578-6701 or cgioe@agcenter.lsu.edu
Editor:         Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu

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