5 Daycare Diagnoses I Frequently See
Deciding to send your child to daycare stirs up a lot of feelings. All parents ask themselves: are they old enough? Will they be taken care of well? Are they ready to be apart from me? How will I handle being apart from them? There are so many upsides to sending kids to daycare – socialization, structure, adaptation practice, skill development, and more. But, along with fingerpainted masterpieces for your fridge, your little ones are likely to bring home some common illnesses that are typical among the daycare age group. Here is some guidance for the 5 diagnoses I frequently see:
Hand, Foot, and Mouth
Most common in children under 5 years of age, hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is caused by a very contagious virus called Coxsackie. It can spread through bodily fluids and infected surfaces. Symptoms include fever and flu-like symptoms and skin rash – most commonly red spots on the palms and soles, and/or mouth sores. HFMD is generally mild but can last a week or slightly longer. The best way to avoid this illness is by practicing good hygiene habits and teaching children to do the same. These include not only handwashing and disinfecting, but also not sharing drinks and cleaning surfaces. If a child does contract HFMD, make sure they are well-hydrated and monitor their fever. Consult a healthcare professional if the child is immunocompromised, or if symptoms last longer than 10 days. PRO TIP: Be careful about your child’s diet during this time if they have mouth sores: salty and/or spicy foods can be painful when eating.
Ringworm is a skin condition caused by a fungus. It’s not a worm at all! It presents as a circular rash that is itchy, red, and scaly. Although it is not limited to toddlers, it is common in daycare settings because lots of items are shared, close contact with peers is unavoidable, and sweating due to physical activity is common. Just like with HFMD, prevention is all about good hygiene habits and symptom monitoring. Fungi thrive in moist areas, so keeping items, clothes, and skin dry is a good way to stave off ringworm. Treatment for ringworm depends on its location on the body and can usually be treated with OTC medicine. Talk to your pediatrician about the best option and let them know if symptoms don’t go away without a prescription. PRO TIP: don’t share hats or combs/hairbrushes, as these can cause transfer of the fungus from person to person.
Another very contagious illness to watch for is norovirus, which spreads through consumption of infected substances and via contact, causing vomiting and diarrhea. These symptoms are not subtle, and this virus often runs through daycares at breakneck speed. Unfortunately, there is no medication that treats norovirus, so it needs to simply run its course. During this time, it’s extremely important to hydrate and replenish the sugar and electrolytes lost to vomiting and diarrhea. If a child is not producing urine after about 8 hours, it is time to call a medical professional. Most norovirus cases improve within 1 to 3 days of infection.
Noticing your little one struggle with intense itch and pimple-like rash? Could be scabies. Caused by neither a virus nor bacteria, this pesky condition is due to tiny mites that burrow and live in the upper level of the skin. Scabies appear in isolated and specific parts of the body that are hard to reach: crevices, folds, etc. They spread through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected person for a prolonged period of time. Unlike the other diagnoses discussed here, scabies must be treated by a physician, as there are no OTC treatments available. Keep in mind that if your child gets diagnosed with scabies, you and other members of your household will likely need to be tested and treated as well.
The Infamous RSV
And of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without the notorious respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. Winter of 2023 has seen a significant uptick in children’s RSV cases, so you may have been hearing about it quite a bit. RSV presents with mild cold-like symptoms, such as coughing, sneezing, fever, and runny nose. For most adults, RSV can be easily treated at home and does not pose a great risk. Young children are slightly more prone to developing severe illness, such as pneumonia or bronchiolitis, as a result of contracting RSV. It is spread primarily through droplets, so it’s important to teach children coughing/sneezing etiquette, as well as proper hygiene and handwashing early on.
Now, if after reading all of that, you are considering leaving your child at home for as long as it is legally possible to protect them from all the diseases that might be flying around in the outside world, I urge you to relax and remember that humans have an immune system for a reason. At some point or another, your child will be exposed to viruses and bacteria, and there is no way to escape them becoming ill someday. This doesn’t mean that we should deprive them of valuable life experiences, such as daycare. It simply means we should be watchful and knowledgeable in case an emergency occurs.