Day Care Health Risks

Day Care Health Risks


Many young children spend a good portion of their lives in daycare. There aremany benefits to day care. It can provide enriching educational and socialexperiences for the child. A recent study of 1,000 children over 6 years ofage compared those who had attended day care before they were six months oldwith those who had not. The children who had attended day care as infants hadonly half the risk of developing asthma as the group who had not attended daycare in their first 6 months of life.

All young children are prone to acquiring infections, but children in day careface special risks. The group setting exposes a child to larger numbers ofother children (and their infections) than the home setting.

What are some of the health risks for children in day care?

Because they are in a group setting, children in day care are exposed to manykinds of infectious diseases. Many of these are quite contagious.

Children in day care tend to get more upperrespiratory infections, such as colds and flus. They alsohavea high number of ear infections, or otitis, which often stem from respiratory ailments.

Sometimes children in day care can be exposed to more serious respiratoryinfections. One of these is tuberculosis (TB). Although not as common as it once was, outbreaks of TB still occur.

Infection of the intestinal tract, called gastroenteritis, is often caused by viruses. Gastroenteritis usuallycauses vomiting or diarrhea or both. These illnesses are very contagious.However, they rarely cause long-term problems. Gastrointestinal infections arespread by the fecal-oral route. This means a person catches it by swallowinggerms found in feces. This type of infection is common among young childrenbecause they may not wash their hands carefully after using the toilet.

A less common intestinal disease sometimes found among children in day care isGiardia lamblia,\ or \Giardia intestinalis.\ giardiasis. It is caused by aparasite called Giardia lamblia. The symptoms of giardiasis includediarrhea, stomach cramps, and gas.Young children can easily pass this disease to others.

Children in day care are also at greater risk of coming in contact with hepatitis A. This form of viral hepatitisis also spread by the fecal-oral route. Hepatitis A is commonly passed throughcontaminated food. Food can become tainted with the virus when a carrier of thedisease handles food after using the toilet without washing his or her hands.

Other common but not serious health problems occur in day care. These includehead lice and scabies infestations, which involves mites infectingthe skin.

What are some of the safety issues for children in day care?

Safety issues can also be a concern for children in day care. The child’s levelof risk is related to the ratio of adult caretakers to children in the day caresetting. Ideally, there should be 1 adult for every 4 children between the agesof 2 and 3. For children ages 3 to 6, the ratio should be 1 to 8. Anothersafety concern is the location of the day care facility. A center on a busystreet or in an unsafe part of town may pose safety risks for children.

Parents should visit a day care facility before enrolling their child. This willenable them to assess the staff and the setting. Parents can also get a senseof the staff’s attitude toward health and safety issues, and look for signs ofchild abuse. The staff shouldtreatthe children with warmth and gentleness. At the same time, they should provideenough supervision and structure to keep the child safe and comfortable.

What questions should parents ask?

Parents should ask about state licensing of the center. They should also askabout guidelines for limiting the spread of illness. These provisions mayinclude requiring staff to have up-to-date immunizations including those forhepatitis A. Also, policies shouldrestrict the children with symptoms of infection from attending day care.

Article type: xmedgeneral