While around 23.4% of children under the age of five are enrolled in some form of organized child care — whether it be a preschool, a daycare center, or another facility — parents may be inclined to let their ideas about these programs keep them from pursuing the type of care their family actually needs. For example, you may have initially shied away from exploring a day care for young children near you because you were convinced that your child would more readily become ill after spending time there.
It’s certainly true that many children experience an uptick in colds and other illnesses once they start going to daycare or even preschool. For one thing, it simply makes sense; because your child will come into contact with far more people at a great day care than they would at home, there are more opportunities for germs and viruses to spread.
In fact, many doctors say that coming down with a cold every month to two months may be relatively normal when a child starts daycare. That, of course, can be a worry for parents and siblings, as those germs will tend to spread at home, too. But in most cases, this experience is not uncommon — and it’s ultimately one that you can choose to have sooner rather than later.
There’s evidence to show that kids who attend daycare may become sick sooner and more frequently than kids who are cared for at home, but daycare children tend to be a bit healthier once they enter school. And of course, there are things you can do at home to reduce your family’s risk of getting sick.
Steps you can take at home
For one thing, the encouragement of healthy habits can go a long way. Young children should wash their hands immediately when they come home from daycare or from preschool, as well as prior to eating and before and after playtime. Parents should also encourage proper hand-washing efforts while their children are outside the home so that this practice becomes second nature.
Make sure to disinfect surfaces frequently, encourage kids to cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and keep children home when they show signs of illness to help prevent the spread of colds and coughs. Prioritizing a nutritious diet full of fruits and vegetables will help, too.
Check with your daycare or preschool
That said, it’s not merely a home-based effort. You can also prioritize a healthy lifestyle by conducting thorough research. When choosing a locally owned and operated professional childcare center, you’ll want to find out some important information. Ask how toys are disinfected and how often they’re sanitized. Find out how often employees wash their hands and what they do to encourage healthy habits in the children enrolled there. Learn about the daycare or preschool sick policy and be sure to follow it. Ensure that toilet policies are enforced and that staff members take preventative measures when dealing with bodily fluids. Make certain that any food prep areas are kept spotless and are located far away from toilet and changing areas. This information can help you to determine whether a given day care for young children meets your standards.
Ultimately, no day care for young children can prevent the spread of germs entirely — just like your best efforts might not keep your home virus-free. But by taking health into consideration when choosing a day care for young children and when enforcing healthy habits at home, you can minimize your child’s risk of contracting many illnesses in a short span and ensure your experience in child day care programs will be overwhelmingly positive.