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Illness In Crèche: When Should You Keep Your Child At Home?

When your child is unwell it can be tricky deciding whether to send them to crèche or to the childminder or keep them at home as sometimes it can be hard to read the symptoms and it may just be a mild head cold.

Not every illness means your child needs a day off crèche and you will need to use common sense when deciding what to do. 

Babies and young children often don’t have the verbal skills to tell us how they are feeling, so the first sign that there’s anything wrong may be crankiness or listlessness.  If you suspect your child isn’t feeling their usual perky self, one of the best ways to tell if there’s something wrong is to take their temperature at the first notice of a change. As a rule, a temperature of over 37.5°C is classed as a fever and you should consult a doctor, especially if your child is under the age of three months.

Other symptoms to watch out for may include:

  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Stuffy noses and sneezing
  • Rashes
  • Sleepiness or irritability
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea

Your child may be fit enough to attend crèche if they only have a minor cough or cold, but do check with the crèche manager first as the crèche will have a child/adult illness policy which will cover the detail of exclusions from crèche. Guidance on this is also available from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

The accepted guidance is that if the illness prevents your child from participating in daily scheduled activities and your child requires more care than the staff are able to provide without compromising the needs of the other children in the crèche or if keeping the child in the centre poses an increased risk to other children, then your child will be excluded until they are well again. If your child falls unwell at crèche, staff will be able to recognise and differentiate between a mildly ill child and when it’s more serious and observe your child to monitor their symptoms.  

You will receive a telephone call from the crèche manager where you can agree and determine the next step to be taken which could be making a doctor’s appointment or collecting your child or undergoing observation for a longer period of time.

If your child just has a mild cold (and there will be plenty!), they will be ok to go to crèche but if the symptoms are more severe, keep them tucked up at home. If the cold is accompanied by a fever and the shivers, and your child is wheezy, is irritable or lethargic and refuses to eat, then they need to stay at home or may need medical attention.  

Unfortunately, when it comes to general coughs, colds and the much-detested tummy bugs, there’s very little you can do to prevent your child from catching these, as they can be picked up from siblings, family members or other people when you are out and about. The average baby catches between four to ten colds during his first year of life, and at this stage, it’s all about building up their immune system.

As much as you want to wrap him in cotton wool and hide him away from all potential germ-spreaders, it really isn’t practical if you’re both to enjoy any type of a social life at all.

Some parents swear by giving their children multivitamin tablets or lozenges each day to help boost their immune system but a balanced healthy diet should be sufficient. Vitamins are widely available over the counter and come in a variety of fruity flavours. There are also many natural ways for you to help boost your child’s immune system and keep the common cold germs at bay.

Make sure to include plenty of fruit and vegetables in their diet. Foods rich in Vitamin C include:
  • Citrus fruit (oranges, lemons, satsumas, tangerines etc.) 
  • Kiwi fruits
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple 
  • Peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower

A simple guide from your health practitioner is:

  • Is your child well enough to do the activities of the crèche day? If not, keep your child at home.
  • Does your child have a condition that could be passed on to other children or crèche staff? If so, keep your child at home.
  • Would you take a day off work if you had this condition? If so, keep your child at home.

It's a good idea to check with the crèche manager or your childminder first if you think that your child might have any infection that could be passed on.  And remember that children who go to crèche or an early years setting are more likely to pick up any infections that are going around so it's worth knowing when it's best for your child to stay at home.

Apart from keeping your child at home when they are ill, good hygiene will go a long way toward preventing the spread of infection. You can do this by washing your hands and your child’s hands often and thoroughly with soap and warm water. This is especially important after nappy-changing and using the toilet, after blowing noses, and before preparing and eating food. 

This article was written by Dearbhala Cox Giffin, Director of Childcare at Giraffe Childcare for eumom.ie

About the Author

Giraffe Childcare. Childcare that shapes a lifetime. For more information, visit giraffe.ie

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