According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 61 percent of all children under 35 months old spend at least some time each week in child care or preschool. The close quarters of preschool, coupled with the young child's often less-than-sanitary practices, can easily lead to the spread of disease. To offset the likelihood of spreading illnesses, preschools typically have health policies in place.
Although most preschools have some form of health polices, licensed child care centers must follow state or local guidelines for this issue. These requirements may vary depending on where you live and the local licensing agency. Agencies that typically license child care centers and preschools include departments of public welfare, departments of health and child services departments. If your child's preschool is a licensed center, the school must follow all licensing rules when it comes to health polices. These are not negotiable, and failure to follow all health regulations may result in the suspension of the school's license.
Before your child begins preschool, the center may require you to submit a health assessment from a licensed pediatrician or other licensed medical professional. This will demonstrate that your child is healthy at the time that she starts school and let the center know if she has any conditions that may require special attention. For example, the state of California requires all children in licensed centers and preschools to have a medical assessment within the first 30 days of enrolling in an early childhood program. The assessment includes a record of any contagious diseases, results of a tuberculosis test, any problems or needs and a list of medications, if needed.
Your child's preschool, especially if a licensed center, most likely has a health policy involving necessary immunizations. The state, county or local health department may require all school children -- even those in preschool -- to have specific immunizations at the time of enrollment. This typically follows the CDC's immunization schedule for children from birth through 18 years. Some children may receive an exemption when it comes to getting all of the required immunizations in the case that a licensed physician provides a note detailing why the child hasn't had the vaccine -- such as having an allergy to one of the vaccine components -- or the parent provides a statement that immunization is against the family's beliefs.
No parent wants to get the dreaded call in the middle of the work day saying that her child is sick and must go home from preschool immediately. That said, most centers have policies on sick kids in school. This also includes regulations for types of illnesses that require a child to stay home and wait times before a child can return to school. Illnesses such as the common cold are typically not cause for a child to stay home from school, while other sicknesses, such as strep throat or those that come with a fever or vomiting, are. Your child's preschool may specifically note all illnesses and symptoms that require you to keep your little one home. For example, the AAP recommends that children who vomit more than two times in 24 hours, have mouth sores, experience difficulty breathing or run a fever stay home from preschool to avoid spreading a contagious illness.
- CDC: Summary Statistics From the National Survey of Early Childhood Health, 2000
- HealthyChildren.org: Preventing the Spread of Illness in Child Care or School
- State of California: Child Care General Licensing Requirements: Child's Medical Assessment
- State of California: Child Care General Licensing Requirements: Immunizations
- CDC: Immunization Schedules
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