My daughter won first place today.  She was the first one in our family to get a cold this year.  Just the plain old common cold variety, thank goodness, but still sick nonetheless.  It has to happen, as it seems to every year.  And this makes me wonder.

Have you reviewed your daycare’s sick policies lately?

If you’ve made changes, have they been communicated to your parents lately?

This is the best time of year to review your sick policies.  We are just going into flu season so it still isn’t a major problem, but it’s top of mind with parents right now.  If you don’t have a sick policy yet, you still have time to get one created & communicated before the flu season gets out of hand.
Some points to think about when reviewing your policy for this year:

  • Does it meet or exceed the state requirements?  Many states have been updating their rules this year so make sure you are still following at least what they require.  Due to swine flu (H1N1 virus), some states may have big changes.
  • Make sure your rules are tough but not too tough.  You don’t want sick children at school spreading germs, but sending them home every time their nose runs will cause parents to complain (and rightly so).
  • Do you have a place set up to care for sick children?  Kids can go downhill fast when a cold comes on. You will want to separate them from others, so make sure you have a cozy corner set up with warm blankets and something to do away from the other kids.
  • Make sure to review with your staff what the rules are, like when children will need to be sent home and who is to be notified.  Also review with staff signs of illness, especially H1N1, the 2009 flu strain, and bronchitis.
  • Send home a copy of the sick policies with parents.  I know it’s in the policy handbook and I’m sure every parent reads it cover to cover, but just to be sure send a new copy home.  It’s always better to keep parents over-informed than under-informed. This is just another great way to show your care and professionalism.
  • If parents may need to have somebody other than themselves (i.e. grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters) to pick up sick children, now is the time to prepare.  You will need to get a signed release with the name of the person in the child’s records, and you should get a copy of the person’s driver’s license also.  This way you and your staff can be sure in a very stressful time.
  • Consider having face masks on hand in both adult and kids sizes.  These can help keep germs from spreading when people cough and sneeze.
  • Review with your staff when they will need to call in sick.  Also make sure you have a plan for replacing sick caregivers.
  • Have a plan in place to clean and disinfect rooms and the entire facility.  If colds or flu start spreading fast through your center, you may need to clean your entire facility quickly to remove the germs.
  • Think about how you would contact parents if you have to close your daycare.  State and local governments and most school districts have put thought into when they may need to close schools this year because of swine flu, you should do the same.  A couple of minutes of planning will go a long way in helping you out later.
  • Consider if you and your staff are going to get flu and H1N1 vaccines this year.  They both should be available soon, but do have side effects.  If you are going to get them, now is the time. You should also think about if you will pay for these vaccines or not on behalf of your staff.  It may sound like a lot, but what is the cost of losing 2-3 care givers?

Obviously this is just a quick list of things you should be thinking about going into the cold and flu season.  With any luck we will get through this season just as well as we have all the others.
So who’s going to be the first one in your family to get sick?