The past twelve months has really emphasised the importance of infection control in childcare. The emergence of COVID-19 has highlighted how quickly a communicable disease can spread and the risks of infection in child care centres are very real, ones that have to be mitigated. Other infectious diseases that can easily be transmitted in a childcare environment include
Naturally all child care centres should have appropriate infection control strategies in place.
Logic dictates that children in childcare are more likely to contract some form of infection than those that stay at home. They are simply in an environment where there is more contact with others and this increased exposure increases the risk of infection. To contain the risk of infection it is necessary for childcare centres to enforce rigorous infection control procedures.
Some strategies include:
Infection control essentially minimises the risk of harm to everybody attending the childcare centre or kindergarten.
Constant contact with and exposure to others makes children much more susceptible to infection. While total prevention of all infections may not be possible, quality hygiene and infection control procedures can control, slow and prevent the most troublesome infections. Procedures should be part of the centres daily routine and everyone should take part. Effective procedures and policies can include:
Placing hand sanitiser at the childcare centre entrance and encouraging children to use it by modelling the behaviour will help to contain the spread of germs in the centre, while also eliminating the overuse of paper towels to open doors and effectively role modelling healthy habits.
One of the common symptoms of COVID-19 is a high fever. In response to this it is recommended that one of the first steps to take in reducing the risk of infection is to monitor each child’s temperature upon arrival at the centre. This should be done using an infrared thermometer.. Temperatures of 38 degrees Celcius or higher are considered to constitute a fever. Any child who records a temperature at this level should be sent home
COVID -19 has brought attendance at childcare centres, kindergartens and schools into sharp focus. It is standard policy in Australia that families and staff should stay home and keep away from the childcare centre if they are exhibiting any symptoms of illness. Such symptoms as fever, headaches, tiredness, sore throat, cough and loss of taste or smell are consistent with COVID-19. Other symptoms where families should be instructed to keep away include any vomiting, sniffles or rashes. In the event that someone has come into contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 within the previous 14 days, they should not be allowed to enter the centre until they have either self-isolated for a period of 14 days or tested negative to the virus
Current evidence suggests that diarrhoea is three times more likely to occur in childcare centres where staff members are required to change nappies as well as being involved with the preparation or serving of food. For this reason, it is prudent to assign these duties to different people.
Kitchen staff should be trained appropriately in all aspects of food handling including the proper ways to handle raw and cooked food, as well as approved methods of food storage, cooking and reheating. Food hygiene procedures in childcare should also include training on how to store and heat breast milk. Proper formula preparation methods should also be provided. Additional safe infection control practices related to food include
When considering hand washing policies it is important to view such policies in the context of what is the aim of infection control? – which is to reduce the spread of communicable disease and protect the health and safety of both staff and children. Pathogenic viruses have been demonstrated to survive on hands for many hours. Hand to hand contact is a key element in the transmission of many infections.
Hand washing, using soap and warm running water, is the best way to reduce disease transmission. Carers and children should be encouraged to wash their hands in the following instances
● Upon arrival at the centre,
● Prior to handling food
● After using the toilet
● After carers change nappies.
Staff should also wash their hands after wiping noses or cleaning up any body fluids like blood, faeces, vomit or urine. A final hand wash at the end of the day before going home is also recommended.
A hand basin or alcohol- based hand rinses should be in close proximity to any designated nappy change areas..
Handling an infectious outbreak in the centre
When responding to any infectious outbreak within your childcare centre , it is imperative that you take swift and decisive action that complies with all legislation.. In respect to most common childhood illnesses like influenza or diarrhea, the response will usually involve notification of all families and instigating a deep clean of the premises.
If, however, you become aware that any visitor, staff member, child or family member that has had contact with your facility has a confirmed case of COVID-19, there are some important additional steps that you will need to take:
Help with dealing with the demands of COVID-19 is available through the Australian Government Department of Health who have developed an online COVID-19 infection control training program. Completion of this training by your staff will ensure that they are familiar with best practices in preventing infectious diseases in childcare.
The challenges presented by COVID-19 have placed a huge mental burden on many people. There is no need to shoulder this burden alone as all Federal and State governments have made additional mental health resources readily available for anyone experiencing emotional strain.