Is it really safe for my child to go back to day care?

Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres, creches, day cares and day mothers have been open since early July, but not everyone send their little ones back. While ECD centres had to follow very specific safety protocols before they could reopen, parents are still worried that their kids can bring the COVID-19 virus home unknowingly.

ALSO SEE: 7 things Early Childhood Development Centres will have to do before they reopen 

According to a study published by the American Medical Association in its journal Pediatrics last week, children younger than 5 years with COVID-19 do have the potential to spread the dangerous virus. The authors say that their latest findings should be taken into consideration in conversations around the safety of reopening schools.

Read more about the study here. 

We asked a paediatrician if she thinks it’s safe to send young kids back to day care:

“The main purpose of a day care and ECD centre is to provide a safe space and developmental stimulation for those children who are unable to receive it at home when their caregiver/parents are unable to. So, against that background the benefits of a day care or ECD centre will still outweigh the potential risks of a child contracting COVID-19. However, those children who are safe and stimulated at home, don’t need to return to a day care or ECD centre if it’s not in their or their family’s best interest,” says Dr Fiona Kritzinger, a paediatric pulmonologist at the Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town.

Keeping kids safe at day care

Dr Kritzinger says children younger than 2 years shouldn’t wear masks. “Kids older than 2 years can be taught to wear a mask correctly, but it may still be challenging for the younger child,” she says.

ALSO SEE: 5 ways to get toddlers and pre-schoolers to wear their face mask for longer

She adds that frequent and adequate hand washing will also reduce the risk of young children getting infected with COVID-19 at day care.

Dr Kritzinger says it’s also necessary to rethink activities in order to create more social distancing and prevent sharing of contact surfaces.

How do I prevent my child from infecting the rest of the family should she get infected with COVID-19 at day care?

Dr Kritzinger says parents should firstly weigh up the necessity of attending preschool with the potential risks for the child and the household. “If the children benefit greatly from going to day care, then you can proceed safely by adhering to good hand hygiene practices, changing of clothes and shoes when back home and cleaning surface areas of objects used at school (such as water bottles, books, pencils, etc) before entering the house,” she suggests.

She says if your child has any suggestive symptoms of COVID-19 (runny nose, cough, diarrhoea, vomiting, fever), she shouldn’t attend preschool for at least 10 days.

“If all parents adhere to this simple rule, they will reduce the potential risk to everyone else in the class significantly,” says Dr Kritzinger.

More about the expert:

Dr Fiona Kritzinger established a state-of-the-art Paediatric Pulmonology and Sleep service at Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town in 2010. Her interests include Asthma, Cystic Fibrosis,lung transplantation, interventional bronchoscopy and sleep-related breathing disorders. She serves on the executive of the Paediatric Management Group (PMG) and the South African Paediatric Association (SAPA) and one of the directors of the Chest and Allergy centre in Cape Town. Learn more about Dr Fiona Kritzinger here.

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