Who is in day care?
The 2000 census reported that of among the nation's 19.6 million preschoolers, grandparents took care of 21 percent, 17 percent were were cared for by their father (while their mother was employed or in school); 12 percent were in day care centers; nine percent were cared for by other relatives; seven percent were cared for by a family day care provider in their home; and six percent received care in nursery schools or preschools. More than one-third of preschoolers (7.2 million) had no regular child-care arrangement and presumably were under maternal care.
Day care establishments are defined as those primarily engaged in care of infants or children, or in providing pre-kindergarten education, where medical care and/or behavioral correction are not a primary function or major element. Some may or may not have substantial educational programs, and some may care for older children when they are not in school.
What are your child's risks of being exposed to a contagious illness at a day care center?
Medline, a service of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, reports that day care centers do pose some degree of an increased health risk for children, because of the exposure to other children who may be sick.
When your child is in a day care center, the risk is greatest for viral upper respiratory infection (affecting the nose, throat, mouth, voice box) and the common cold, ear infections, and diarrhea. Some studies have tried to link asthma to day care. Other studies suggest that being exposed to all the germs in day care actually IMPROVES your child's immune system.
Studies suggest that the average child will get eight to ten colds per year, lasting ten - 14 days each, and occurring primarily in the winter months. This means that if a child gets two colds from March to September, and eight colds from September to March, each lasting two weeks, the child will be sick more than over half of the winter.
At the same time, children in a day care environment, exposed to the exchange of upper respiratory tract viruses every day, are expected to have three to ten episodes of otitis media annually. This is four times the incidence of children staying at home.
When should your child remain at home instead of day care or school?
Simply put, children become sick after being exposed to other sick children. Some guidelines to follow are:
Can you prevent your child from becoming sick at a day care center?
The short answer is no. Exposure to other sick children will increase the likelihood that your child may catch the same illness, particularly with the common cold. The primary rule is to keep your own children at home if they are sick. However, you can:
Day care has become a necessity for millions of families. Monitoring the health of your own child is key to preventing unneccessary sickness. If a serious illness occurs, do not hesitate to have your child examined by a physician.
Otolaryngology (pronounced oh/toe/lair/in/goll/oh/jee) is the oldest medical specialty in the United States. Otolaryngologists are commonly referred to as ENT physicians.
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