Share Your Toys – And Your Germs at Daycare!


Ah, what would the working mom – or dad - do without daycare? Well, for one thing, they probably would not be battling all the germs Baby or Junior keeps bringing home! ‘Day care syndrome’ is not an official illness but families, caregivers, and doctors are all too familiar with the symptoms. There’s a ‘sharing of contagious germs’ followed by the on-again, off-again cycles of illness that just keep rotating through a household.

The Mayo Clinic has determined that the top five contagious diseases that your child can pick up while at daycare are:

  • Colds (upper respiratory infections)
  • Stomach flu (vomiting and/or diarrhea)
  • Ear infections (otitis media)
  • Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
  • Sore throat

Numerous studies have proven that just being in daycare increases the child’s chances of illness. Parents who must use these facilities recognize the truth of this statement. An Academy of Pediatrics Fact Sheet on “Controlling Illness in Child Care Programs” lists a number of infections that are spread more easily in daycare. The ailments include those named by the Mayo Clinic plus:

  • Skin diseases like Impetigo and Ringworm
  • Lice and scabies
  • Cold sores
  • Hepatitis A

The experts who prepared this paper recommended vaccination against Hepatitis A because of the repeated diaper changes and the real possibility of poor hand washing by the employees.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 65% of women with children under the age of six are part of the work force. This number has grown from 44% in 1975. As more children enter day care, the amount of illness increases. Dr. Juan Celedon of the Harvard Medical School says, “There is little question that daycare before the age of two predisposes children to illnesses of the upper and lower respiratory tract. But we don’t yet know the long-term impact of illnesses in early childhood, and that’s a very important question. It’s possible that some of the infections may be harmful and some may be protective, but that is largely unknown.”

It is easy to see how easily germs pass from one child to another in daycare. The facility usually has a policy with guidelines for symptoms of illness when the child must be kept at home. However, by the time the symptoms appear, the child may have already passed his germs and subsequent illness on to others. Usually, during the incubation phase of an illness, before symptoms appear, the child is contagious.

Jody Heymann, a professor at Harvard, described in her book, The Widening Gap,
the ‘Tylenol practice’ in which parents dose an ill child with the medication to lower his temperature just before drop-off at daycare. The result is that caregivers are not aware that the child is ill for hours. An elevated temperature usually means the child is contagious and he must be excluded. This ‘Tylenol practice’ by parents, many who can not miss work, circumvents the rule. Plus, it results in the exposure of many other children to illness. The hard-pressed workers face an additional burden of caring for an ill child until he can be picked up by a parent, which often isn’t until the end of the day. Is it any wonder kids get sick going to day care?

When looking for a daycare make sure that they have the proper industrial supplies to make sure that your child is safe. Automatic soap dispensers and automatic paper towel dispensers are one way to help stop the spread of germs in Daycare.

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