Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sick Kids at Childcare Centers

I think it's a tough call for childcare centers and parents on when kids should be sent home sick. Sometimes kids have a fever for a week or more. Parents can't be expected to take off work for weeks at a time. Plus, they are still paying daycare costs when their child is sent home sick. However, I wouldn't want my kids to be going to a childcare center that houses sick kids either. It's a catch 22. That's one reason most childcare centers abide by strict "sick" guidelines.

A new study shows most daycare centers err on the side of caution and send kids home even if they have a mild illness. A study of daycares in Wisconsin found nearly 60-percent of children with colds and minor vomiting and diarrhea would be sent home, even though the guidelines don't automatically exclude children for those issues.

I wanted to know how local centers decide when to send kids home and whether the parents complain about it. I called Bright Horizons at Little Friends to get some information on their policy. Center Director Brian Newman said, "It's a tough-especially with this economy, parents are pressured to stay at work. Sometimes when a child has a low grade fever in the morning, we will call and let the parents know ahead of time so they can get a lot done at work in the morning in case they have to come pick up."

Little Friends policy is if the child has a fever of 101 degrees or more, the child will be sent home. The child has to be fever free without medication for 24 hours before he/she can return to childcare. "The tougher ones are non fevers. Is the child being lethargic, pulling at the ears, vomiting? But even with that there are degrees," Newman said. He said if they child is vomiting, they are not always sent home. He said sometimes the child may have a mucus build-up from allergies and it makes them sick to their stomach. In that case, they are not contagious.

So if a child is sent home from childcare for a fever, he/she cannot come back the next day. That's at least two days off work. I wanted to know if parents complain. Newman said, "They don't complain as much as you would think. They understand it's for the safety for all the children. You would be surprised." He said he thinks they would get more complaints if they kept kids at the center who were contagious. He said as soon as teachers think a child is sick, he/she is moved to a room that isn't being used by other kids.

Newman also says he has worked to get parents to communicate with the teachers about anything that might make the child seem sick. He said parents typically let the teachers know if their child had a late night or tried some unusual food the day before. In turn, teachers let the parents know when there is a birthday party and the child may have been more excited or had more treats than on a typical day. "Keeping that open communication alive and well is the most important part," said Newman.

Here's a link to an article in Pediatrics about sick kids and daycare center policies.

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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