Coughs, sneezes, and runny noses- these are all common this time of year, especially in childcare programs. I have friends and family who have been affected this year by the flu, and in each program I’ve visited the last month or two, there is generally at least one or two children out with the flu.
We know that cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting, and hand washing help prevent the spread of germs and illness. The flu, or Influenza, is more severe than a common cold. Fevers are higher, the body aches, coughs are stronger and more frequent, and vomiting or diarrhea are sometimes involved. It is important to know the difference between the cold and flu, and to make sure children see a physician when needed.
You may be caring for children that are at higher risk of flu complications or for whom the flu can exacerbate existing conditions such as asthma. Children with chronic illnesses are at greater risk of flu complications. Some examples of these chronic illnesses are asthma, diabetes, chronic lung disorders like cystic fibrosis, morbid obesity, liver and kidney disorders, and blood disorders like sickle cell disease. Some examples of complications include bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus infections and ear infections. Keep an extra close eye on children with chronic illnesses during cold and flu season. They may struggle more than other children to fight off illnesses, and early detection can help.
Be proactive by talking to parents about their child’s health issues, and formulating a plan in case they are exposed to influenza. It may be helpful to prepare a list of possible people other than the parents who can care for the child should they become ill. This can help parents be prepared if their child is sick and they have trouble taking time off work.
For your protection and for the protection of the children in your care, make sure you have an illness policy in place. Make parents aware of your rules (temperatures and symptoms that require the parent to come get their child, and when their child can return to care) and stick to them! It is hard not being able to provide care for the children and families who are so close to us, but it really is best for everyone when ill children are not involved in the program.
Below are several links to information about the flu, as well as a sample parent letter. Stay healthy!!
Flu: A Guide for Parents of Children or Adolescents with Chronic Health Conditions: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/chronic/Pages/Flu-A-Guide-for-Parents-of-Children-or-Adolescents-With-Chronic-Health-Conditions.aspx
Preventing the Flu: Resources for Parents and Child Care Providers: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/immunizations/Pages/Preventing-the-Flu-Resources-for-Parents-Child-Care-Providers.aspx
Video, Treating your Child’s Cold and Flu: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/medication-safety/Pages/Treating-Your-Childs-Cold-or-Flu-Video.aspx
Flu Letter to Parents: https://www.aap.org/en-us/Documents/Parent_Flu_Letter_2017-2018.pdf