Childcare centres are a hub of activity with plenty of children and adults coming and going as the day goes on. This lively and busy environment also means that children have lots of contact with other children and adults in the centre, increasing the likelihood of spreading illness.

All good childcare services will have a savvy strategy in place that involves certain policies and protocols around illness in the centre, helping to reduce the risk of it spreading and keeping the wellbeing and health of children at the forefront of operations. But, it’s unfortunately impossible to completely eliminate the risk!

Having a sick child can be extremely stressful on both the parent and the child, with added pressure from factors such as taking leave from work or the illness spreading amongst the household. To take some of the pressure off, we’ve answered a few common questions around illness in childcare centres.

Why do children contract illnesses while in childcare?

Children’s little bodies work overtime from the day they’re born to develop an immune system that will aid them in fighting illness as they grow. In their homes, the level of contact with outside bacteria and surfaces is minimal. So, when they attend childcare and are encouraged to explore and socialise, this increases the amount of contact they have with different surfaces and people, making them more susceptible to illness.

Why do sick children need to stay home from childcare?

Childcare centres have your children’s best interests in mind when excluding ill children from attending. The main reason is to reduce the risk of the illness spreading around the centre by stopping contact until the child has recovered. Typically, centres will have a policy that requires parents to notify the centre if their child has contracted an illness so that certain hygiene practices can be followed such as washing and sanitising toys and equipment to reduce the likelihood of the illness spreading. Also, sick children are generally more comfortable at home and may recover quicker!

How do you tell if a child is well enough to return to childcare?

The general rule of thumb is that children should remain home from childcare if they have an infectious illness that will make it difficult or uncomfortable for them to participate in centre activities or play. Some childcare centres may also require children to have a medical clearance for their illness before returning as a safety measure.

Illnesses that are not infectious but may require ongoing medication may be managed by educators providing all the relevant documentation and medication is provided for the child.

What do you do if your child gets sick at their childcare centre?

Centre educators and staff are not qualified to formally diagnose children with any illnesses. Typically, if an educator suspects a child is sick or showing signs of contracting an illness, they will contact the parents or emergency contact listed and request the child be picked up from the centre. Centres can have certain policies around situations such as a rising temperature and administering medication such as Panadol, or when to call parents about other concerns or indications that a child is unwell.

What if a child needs to be administered medication at childcare?

Centres will generally have different policies on what is required of parents should their child need medication administered during the hours they’re attending the childcare centre. Some examples of this might be asthma inhalers, anti-biotics, topical creams, or other medication required for the health and/or recovery of a child.

Different procedures for administering medication to a child can include completing forms with dosages, instructions, expiration dates etc. or may require a letter from your child’s GP to confirm the medicine is required.