Caring For a Sick Child

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Caring for a sick child is heart wrenching. Those once active tykes look at you with puppy dog eyes and pouting lips. All they want is a hug that'll make everything better. For children in child care, all they want to do is go home.

To make sure your child will be as comfortable as possible when he/she becomes ill at the daycare centre or home, talk to your caregiver about her ill-child policy. Ask her to show you where your child will go if he is sick or how he will be comforted until you arrive. Though your child will have to be separated from the rest of the children, he should never be out of sight or hearing range of the caregiver.

You'll also want to know just when you will be notified should junior develop a fever or lethargically wander around the family dayhome. Ask the caregiver if she has had any training in how to recognize the signs of sickness or if the centre has a pediatrician available to answer their questions and concerns about any illness. Is there a chart from the health department they can refer to?

Find out what the caregiver will do if your child develops a fever or becomes dehydrated. If your child begins vomiting or has a bad case of diarrhea? At what point is the caregiver prepared to call for emergency help? Are you comfortable with your caregiver's policies and sick child knowledge?

Before you ask your child care provider to administer medication, even over the counter remedies like Tylenol or Panadol, be sure the bottle is clearly labeled.

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According to Deborah Kernested, in Administering Medication to Children (Interaction, Fall 1993), there are "five rights" to ensuring the safe administration of medication. These are:

  • the right child
  • the right medication
  • the right dose (amount)
  • the right time
  • the right route (oral, nasal, rectal, eye, ear or injection)

Kernested, though talking to caregivers, has some valuable advise that can be applied to parents as well. Among these:

  • be familiar with your centre's regulation for the administering of medications
  • asking your physician to prescribe medication that can be administered at home, rather than at the centre
  • filling out a written permission form (See Business Forms in our Exclusive Products section to order ready-to-use Permission forms)
  • discussing your child's medication at length with the person responsible for administering medication
  • reviewing the label and the doctor's orders
  • asking to see the sheet used to record the administering of medication to be sure your child received the medication at the prescribed times and at the right dosage (See Business Forms in our Exclusive Products section to order ready-to-use Administering Medication forms)
  • ensuring that your child's reactions to the medication (if any)
    are recorded on the record sheet. She also recommends parents get their physician to put the use of the medication in writing and that this be given to the caregiver.

Obviously the best way to reduce the number of colds and respiratory infections your child gets is to apply some very basic hygiene and infection control measures. As always, take a few minutes to discuss the caregiver's or centre's hygiene practices with them. Visit the washroom to make sure that soap and towels, preferably paper, disposable towels are available, that each child has a place of his own to store personal items like toothbrushes and combs, and is assigned her own washcloth.

Good handwashing practices make a vast difference in the number of infections that spread through the centre or home, particularly after diaper changing.

In addition to good hand washing and diaper changing practices, Child Care Action Campaign, in their Information Guide 18, Infectious Diseases and Child Care recommends that:

  • staff use a paper towel to turn off the facet after they have washed to avoid contaminating their clean hands;
  • toilet trained children use flush toilets, and always wash their hands afterwards;
  • tissues be available for runny noses and be disposed of at once;
  • children wash their hands immediately after they use them to wipe their nose or cover coughs;
  • tables are washed and sanitized before meals;
  • cribs and cots are three feet apart; children should have their own linen; both linen and cots should be cleaned regularly;
  • and that toys be washed regularly and kept clean.

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