Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Beating the Flu

So far, this year’s flu season is looking pretty unpleasant.  It started 5 weeks earlier than anticipated and, as rough as it is so far, has not yet peaked.  News reports are filled with stories of the worst flu season in a decade, including the news that there have been 18 flu-related pediatric deaths so far this season.  

So, with such grim reports, how do we protect our staff and the children in our care?  Although I realize vaccinations are controversial, that is the Centers for Disease Control’s first recommendation.  The one bit of good news from this year’s flu season is that the vaccine developed for this season is so far proving to be effective for the strains of flu reported in the vast majority of cases.  In our program, we cover the cost of flu shots for any of our staff members who want to receive them.  At about $20 per staff member, we find this to be money well-spent.

The next piece of protection is making sure that you have an illness exclusion policy that you implement fully.  Simply stated, sick people cannot be in your program or they will make others sick.  Your policy must clearly explain which symptoms are exclusionary and when individuals can return to the program after being excluded.  When I send a child home, I explain clearly to the parent when the child can return; for example, if a child goes home with a fever at 2:00 in the afternoon on Monday, the child will not be eligible to return until at least Wednesday.  This exclusion policy must apply to program staff as well.  Having sick staff is no different than having sick children in the program.

The final piece is simple implementation of a health policy and a cleaning and sanitation policy.  These policies will remind staff and children how and when to wash their hands, to appropriately cover their coughs and sneezes, to promptly dispose of tissues, and to keep the various surfaces in the program clean and sanitary.  

These simple steps will greatly reduce the risk of spread of illness in your program.


  1. Some good advice in the post. The very young and very old are both far more vulnerable to the flu and colds than those of us in between. It is so important to take effective measures to protect against them. It might be inconvenient for a parent to have to keep a child out of care for a day or two but that's far better than having all the children contract illness.

  2. Thanks, Alexander. It has always amazed me at how upset some parents become when you tell them their sick child cannot be in care. But, at the same time, they are the ones who are most upset when they think another child in care should be excluded. It can be tough to tell them their child has to go home (I thought I was going to get punched once), but we have to do it consistently to protect everyone in our program.

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  5. I've found that in my program the biggest defense against cold & flu is keeping EVERYTHING sanitized. Going above and beyond what the state requires wiping down door knobs, light switches, tv remotes, anything that is touched daily. We switched to using Norwex Enviro Cloths which uses water… yes, only water … to clean, sanitize, and disinfect. NO MORE harmful chemicals to breathe, touch or ingest.