Childcare And Sickness

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The Frustrations And Solutions

It’s something that every working parent dreads… illness descends on your home and germs don’t seem to care that you have a meeting at 10 and a childcare provider that frowns on sniffling, vomiting, and the runs. There are only so many sick days you can take because of your child before your boss starts to roll their eyes (which is rude because, you know… parents have to parent). Yet, every time you try to sneak your sick child by the childcare providers they turn into the Hulk and throw you out on your ear.

So, what’s a parent supposed to do when they have a sick child and childcare problems?

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The Petri Dish Of Daycare

The most important thing that you can do is learn when it’s safe to put your child in their daycare facility, when they need to stay at home, and when they need to visit the doctor.

The biggest issue is that your child is most likely sick, because another parent didn’t keep their child home when they should have. So you have to decide on what action to take with your own child.

Childcare providers often feel under pressure to take sick children because parents are terrified to miss a day of work. You may have noticed that the majority of facilities have a policy in place and it’s in writing so they can furiously point to it when they have to argue with an insistent parent.

Facilities should be able to recognise when an illness (or injury) is developing, at what point to alert a parent, and when it would be appropriate to call an ambulance. If your child is being excluded from care then they should be able to provide you with an adequate reason.

For example, if your child has conjunctivitis (pink eye) or strep throat… don’t even think about taking them to daycare. Unless, of course, you have visited the doctor and they’ve been on antibiotics for 24 hours. As for diarrhoea, if a nappy cannot contain it you cannot expect professionals to deal with this. Now, if you have a toilet trained child experiencing the runs they should be able to control it, otherwise… it’s a sick day at home. If your child has a fever that accompanies these symptoms (or mucus/blood in the stool) then it’s a visit to the doctor.

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One of the biggest risks is respiratory illness and that risk increase 12% for every nine hours your child is in care. It’s fairly common for a child to pick up a cold (or respiratory infection) once a month… ugh, even more ugh when you consider the fact that the symptoms stick around for up to three weeks. So, they might get sick once a month for three weeks every month and we wonder why they throw tantrums. Am I right?

The good news is it’s safe to send them to daycare provided they have no fever, energy and are having no issues eating and drinking. Coughing, though, means the infection can spread.

There’s another issue at play, often the guidelines are misinterpreted (by parents and staff) especially when it comes to the 24-hour antibiotic rule. That means nothing if your child has a respiratory infection because that could have been a viral infection which means they can still spread it.

Check with your local daycare centre to find out what their policy is when it comes to sickness. At the daycare where my children go, they have a big sign on the front door that clearly says “If your child is suffering from any of these symptoms, they are / are not permitted to attend daycare today”. If your daycare doesn’t have anything like this – ask them to make a sign! At least that way, EVERYONE knows!

The Solution

If we lived in an ideal world daycare facilities (or employers) would provide care facilities for children who shouldn’t be around other kids. Even better, a magical unicorn would arrive at your door (without so much as a phone call because it just knows) and would care for your unwell child and take care of all the housework, too. I think we can agree that most of those solutions are a fairy tale, though, there are childcare facilities that have sick rooms.

So, what can you do? Well, when you choose a childcare provider you can ask about their sickness policies and find out whether they have sick rooms. If you have a facility in your area that offers this then choose them! If not, know when it’s safe to send them and when it isn’t.

You’ll miss less work that way, and better yet you and your partner can split the duties of missing out on work. Not everyone is lucky enough to have family in the area who can step in when you’re in need, but a strong support network can come in handy so be sure to build friendships with other parents in your daycare facility. You never know who can bail you out in your desperation.

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