Flu Preparations Especially Important for Infant Child Care Providers

Sep 09, 2009

By Elizabeth Hoffmann

Cold and flu season is on the way, and 2009 may be an especially difficult year with H1N1 flu in additional to seasonal influenza. Young children under age 5 are in the highest risk category for catching seasonal or H1N1 flu and among the groups prioritized for immunization.

However, babies under 6 months of age are too young to receive the H1N1 vaccine. Thus, child care providers and caregivers of infants are a high-priority group for receiving vaccines when available, to help protect the babies in their care. Other precautions that child care providers can take include washing hands frequently, receiving regular seasonal flu vaccinations, ensuring routine environment cleaning and disinfection of toys and materials, conducting daily health checks of children, and promoting good hygiene. It's also a good time to review policies and practices related to communicable diseases-such as when children should stay home, when children should be sent home, and separating sick children till their parents can pick them up-with both child care staff and parents.

Federal guidelines for responding to this flu season have been issued for child care and early childhood providers. Federal agencies have also prepared a communications toolkit for child care and early childhood providers, as well as focusing their most recent flu webcast on parents and child care providers. Webcast discussants highlighted that flu preparations can be an important teaching opportunity for young children. Good practices should be modeled to children in ways that they can easily understand-for example, to wash your hands for as long as it takes to sing a favorite group song like "Happy Birthday" or "The A-B-C's."

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