A daycare sick policy is essential to running a successful childcare business. Not only does it protect children's health by preventing the spread of illness, but it also helps maintain a safe and healthy environment for your staff, who work closely with young children all day. A daycare sick policy is a set of established guidelines and procedures that providers and families follow if the children under their care start showing signs of illness in the classroom or at home.
A well-thought-out policy will help you effectively communicate your expectations to families and keep everyone healthy. Also, by having a policy in place, you’ll be able to take swift and appropriate action if a child does become sick while in your care.
However, many childcare centers don’t have a well-documented sick policy—or any sick policy at all. This can leave families and staff frustrated and unsure of what to do when a child becomes ill.
In this article, we'll cover the basics of a daycare sick policy and the different procedures for different ailments. We'll also include key points to consider and adjust to fit the specific needs of your center as you create or update your own sick policy.
What is a daycare sick policy?
A daycare sick policy is sometimes referred to as an “exclusion for sickness policy,” since children experiencing certain symptoms of illness are often required to stay at home. Children in group childcare settings are exposed to a lot of germs and may experience up to 12 respiratory illnesses in their first year. Daycare sick policies help childcare providers avoid the spread of these infectious diseases, maintaining a healthy environment for staff, children, and their families. In addition, some families have vulnerable individuals like infants and the elderly whose immune systems are fragile. A daycare sick policy allows sick children to receive appropriate care and rest without compromising the health of others.
It’s important for childcare centers to include a detailed sick policy in their family handbooks so families understand when to keep their child at home and what criteria they must meet to return back to your center. Update your policy on a regular basis to ensure that it is compliant with state regulations and to accommodate any occurrences of new infectious diseases like COVID-19.
When creating a daycare sick policy, it’s also necessary to include separate procedures for different ailments like vomiting, fever, diarrhea, medication administration, and COVID-19 since they are contracted differently, and some are more infectious than others. Childcare health requirements vary from state to state, so it’s essential to check the rules for your state to ensure compliance.
Daycare fever policy
Fever is one of the most prevalent causes of keeping a child home from daycare. While a low-grade fever might not be a big deal for an adult, it can be more serious for a young child.
For this reason, your policy must detail what to do when a child has a fever. Here are five things to consider:
- Temperature thresholds: What is the temperature at which a child needs to stay home? A temperature above 100° F is a common threshold, but you can set it greater or lower based on the requirements of your center.
- Exclusion period: How long should a child with a fever stay at home? Fever policies typically indicate that a child can return to child care after they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
- Recurrence policy: What should you do if a child has a fever more than once in a short time, like within a week? Consider excluding the child for a longer time or requiring a doctor's note before the child can return.
- Exception for other symptoms: What if a child has a fever but no other symptoms? You may want to consider letting the child stay if they’re otherwise feeling well.
- Medication: Does the child's temperature stabilize after taking medication? If so, your policy may allow the child to stay at your center.
Daycare vomiting policy
Vomiting is another common reason to keep a child home from daycare. It may indicate a more serious illness, such as the stomach flu or food poisoning.
If a child vomits while at daycare:
- Keep the child away from other preschoolers and adults
- Clean up any vomit immediately with a bleach solution
- Have the child drink clear fluids, such as water or ginger ale, to prevent dehydration
- Monitor the child closely for any other symptoms
Children are often sent home from daycare for vomiting, but it’s important to have a policy in place for this. Here are some other things to consider:
- The number of episodes: How many times must a child vomit before they’re sent home? One time might be sufficient, especially if the child has other symptoms such as a fever.
- Exception for other symptoms: If a child is vomiting but has no other symptoms, you might allow them to stay. However, if the child also has a fever or diarrhea, then going home might be the best option.
- Medication: What if a child takes medication to stop vomiting? If the child can stop vomiting and they have no other symptoms, you might allow them to stay. However, if the child is still vomiting or not feeling well, you’ll probably require them to go home. You may also require a doctor's note before the child can return.
Daycare diarrhea policy
If a child is experiencing diarrhea, that may be a sign of a more serious illness and another reason to stay home from daycare.
Here are factors to consider when developing your daycare diarrhea policy:
- Frequency: Your policy can detail how many loose stools a child can have in one day before they are sent home. For example, a reasonable policy might state that children will be sent home if they have two loose or watery bowel movements in one day.
- Other symptoms: If a child is experiencing other symptoms along with diarrhea, such as a fever or other behavior changes, or there is blood or mucus in the stool, your policy might require them to stay at home until symptoms are gone.
Daycare covid policy
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed how we live and work. As a result, any childcare facility must have a comprehensive plan in place to protect the health and safety of staff and children.
Your daycare COVID-19 policy may choose to exclude children experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms and require a negative test before a child can return. You may also encourage families, staff, and children to stay up to date on vaccinations, including COVID-19 and the flu.
Your policy can also include preventative measures for staff and families to take to stop the spread of COVID-19:
- Staff training: Provide health and safety training for all staff members on the proper way to prevent the spread of illnesses, including hand-washing protocols, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), and cleaning and disinfecting procedures. If there is a known or suspected case of COVID-19, staff may be responsible for alerting the families at your center, isolating the sick individual, and disinfecting the facility.
- Health screenings: All staff members and children can be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 before entering the facility each day. This can be done with a daily health screening procedure that includes a temperature check and a symptom checklist.
- Hand washing and social distancing guidelines: Encourage frequent hand washing throughout the day at your center and keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer on hand. You can also limit the number of adults that enter your facility and modify your drop-off and pick-up procedures to limit unnecessary contact. If possible, consider keeping children and adults in small groups, ensure classrooms are well-ventilated, and hold activities outside whenever possible.
- Cleaning and disinfecting protocols: Establish a cleaning routine so all common surfaces in the facility are cleaned and disinfected regularly, paying special attention to high-touch locations, including chairs, tables, and door handles.
Administration of medication policy
While your policy may encourage families to administer medication at home whenever possible, there might be times when children may need to take medication at your childcare center. Most childcare centers have a clear policy outlining general medication policies as well as policies related to prescription and over-the-counter medications. Check your state’s licensing agency for any regulations regarding childcare providers and medication administration.
General medication policies can include:
- Written authorization: Before administering medication, your center can require written authorization from the child’s parent or legal guardian and written instructions and authorization from the child’s physician or other health professional.
- Medication storage: Your policy can include proper medication storage requirements such as storing medication separately for each child and storing in the original, tamper-resistant container.
Staff administration and documentation: The staff member administering the medication needs to be trained in the proper procedures and must also document each dosage on a specific medication form, listing the time and amount given.
Daycare sick policy examples
The health of the children and staff at your childcare center is always a top priority. To help prevent the spread of illness and keep everyone healthy, a few examples of sick policies will help you get started and ensure everyone knows what to do if someone gets sick.
- Caring for Our Children (CFOC) Inclusion/Exclusion Due to Illness guidelines are adapted from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations to control the spread of some infectious diseases in early care and education centers.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides this information for schools and childcare providers to help slow the spread of respiratory illnesses, including the flu.
- The California Childcare Health Program health and safety notes outlines four steps to a healthier program and the symptoms or conditions for which exclusion is recommended.
Your daycare sick policy is the first step in providing a safe and healthy learning environment for children, families, and staff. Your policy will help ensure families and staff know what to do when a child is sick and offer guidelines for everyone to follow to limit the spread of illness. Creating a comprehensive policy—and consistently enforcing it—will keep everyone at your childcare center healthy and happy.
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