One of the drawbacks of daycare—even the very best one you can find—is that toddlers and preschoolers are great at sharing germs. You may discover that once your child is in daycare, the whole family seems to be getting every bug that makes the rounds. In fact, the average child in preschool gets sick eight to 12 times in the first year of regular daycare. What can you do to keep your child from picking up viruses at daycare?
1. Start with a good diet.
We all know that little children can be the world's pickiest eaters. That can make it challenging to feed a diet high in fruits and vegetables, which are full of vitamins that boost immunity. Make sure you offer a fruit and vegetable at every meal and encourage children to take at least one bite.
Sometimes it can take several times of offering a particular food to get a child to like it, and at any time a toddler may decide not to eat something he or she previously liked. So to cover your bases, look for a multivitamin high in vitamins C and D to help your child ward off illness. Talk to your pediatrician if you have any questions about the proper amounts of extra vitamins to supplement.
2. Teach hand washing early.
You may not make much progress with a young child, but encourage hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer as much as you can, especially in the midst of cold season. You should teach your child to use soap and scrub hands for 15 to 20 seconds to kill germs. Perhaps find a song or rhyme that lasts for the right length of time and have your child sing or recite it as they wash.
Ask your daycare provider to have hand sanitizer on hand and have children use it regularly. At home, remind your child to wash after coming home from daycare or another public place, after using the toilet and after playing with pets.
It's not a bad idea to inquire at daycare about their hand washing policy for adults, too. If nothing else, it may encourage workers to frequently wash their own hands and avoid transmitting germs.
3. Encourage your child to avoid touching faces.
Germs on hands can travel into the body through eyes, noses and mouths. It may be a challenge, but try to discourage your child from sucking on his or her hand, rubbing eyes or touching others' faces.
4. Know your daycare facility's policies.
Many daycare services have strict policies around when a child is too ill to come in. Unfortunately, a child may be contagious before showing symptoms. But your daycare should have policies in place to have parents keep sick children home—especially those who have had a fever, vomiting or diarrhea.
It may seem like forever, but studies show that kids who are sick early on in daycare get fewer illnesses later in school. So do your best to avoid what you can, and take comfort in the fact that you'll be less likely to get sick in a few years.