Caring for our children while both parents work has become a vital necessity for millions of American families. There now is a variety of contacts who are monitoring the health of today’s child, but remains a key to preventing unnecessary illnesses. According to the results of the 2000 US census, there are 19.6 million preschoolers, so who is really taking care of them and monitoring their health?

Grandparents – 21 %

Fathers -17%

Day Care Centers – 12%

Other Relatives – 9%

At Home Day Care -7%

Nursery School and Preschool – 6%

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The role of the home day cares, day care centers, most nursery schools and preschools is to provide education and development of the child’s social skills; however medical care is not a primary function of their program.

In addition, Medline, a service of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, reports that day care centers may pose an increased degree of health risk for children because of the exposure to other children who may come to the day care sick. Once a child begins attending a day care center, the risk is greatest for viral upper respiratory infection affecting the nose, throat, mouth and voice box.  These children have an increased exposure to the common cold, ear infections and diarrhea.  There are studies which document that being exposed to these germs actually improves a child’s immune system.

Studies suggest that the average child will get eight to ten colds per year, lasting ten to 14 days each. Children in a day care environment are exposed to the exchange of upper respiratory tract viruses every day and are expected to have three to ten episodes of otitis media annually. This is four times the incidence of children who stay at home.

Some helpful guidelines:

  • When your child has a temperature higher than 100 degrees, keep the child at home. A fever is a sign of potentially contagious infection, even if the child feels fine. Schools often have a policy in place advising parents to keep children home until they are fever-free for 24 hours.
  • When other children in the day care facility have a known contagious infection, such as chicken pox, strep throat or conjunctivitis, it is best to keep your child at home.
  • Children taking antibiotics should be kept at home until they have taken the medicine for two days.
  • If your child is vomiting or has diarrhea, they should not be around other children.
  • Other signs of illness are:
    • the inability to take fluids
    • weakness or lethargy
    • sunken eyes
    • a depressed soft spot on top of an infant’s head
    • crying without tears
    • dry mouth

Since exposure to other sick children will increase the likelihood that each day care child may catch the same illness, it is important to teach your child early about things they can do to stay well:

  • Teach the child to wash their hands before eating and after using the toilet. Have them sing the Happy Birthday song while washing with soap on their hands (20 seconds)
  • Infection is spread the most by children putting dirty toys and hands in their mouths, so check the day care’s hygiene cleaning practices.

The physicians at Oklahoma Otolaryngology Associates help families by examining the child before the first day of school. During the examination, our physician will:

    • Look for otitis (inflammation) in the ear. This is an indicator of future ear infections.
    • Review with the parents any allergies the child may have. This will assist in determining if the diet offered at the day care center may be harmful to the child.
    • Examine the child’s tonsils for infection and size. Enlarged tonsils could indicate that the child may not be getting a healthy amount of sleep at night, resulting in a tired condition during the day.

In conclusion, as our society evolves requiring our children to attend day care and other babysitting arrangements while both parents work, it takes the whole community to help keep those children safe and healthy.  Using an otolaryngologist to help the pediatrician and family practitioner look for signs that the child is possibly struggling with otitis media, bronchiolitis, tonsillitis or other common conditions, we can help parents look for the more uncommon conditions, when caught early, can be treated with more success.