Day Cares: Defending Against the Flu

Renee Passal
Updated: February 15, 2018 05:59 PM

Jill Kandel's kids are back to their usual selves. But at the end of January, Akash and Olivia were both laid out flat. "Akash, my son, was the first to get it." The diagnosis? Influenza A. 

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They had just gotten him home from the doctor, when the school called about his sister.  They suspected she too, had the flu. 

When they took her into the doctor, she tested negative, but had all the same symptoms as her brother. "Between the two of them, it was quite the week," Jill laughed. 

But she knew the flu was no laughing matter. "I Googled it, immediately, and freaked out."

She had heard about the dangers of this year's strain. Each week, there have been more reports about it spreading and getting worse. Plus there have been heartbreaking cases involving children. At least 63 children have died so far this season.

Here in the Northland, at Kiddy Karousel in Hibbing, they have had two cases of influenza. If the children show symptoms of the flu, they are sent home, and cannot return until they have a doctor's diagnosis. "After a proper diagnosis, we post it. Not everything is the flu. But that way the parents know what is in the room," explained Pat Ives, the director of the center.

Staff do a deep clean of that room as well. Toys that get put into mouths are given special treatment, all year round. Ives explained, "We have a policy that any toys that are mouthed are put in a bucket to be disinfected at the end of each day. Then they are air-dried overnight, and put back on the shelf to be loved again the next day."

Ives jokes that the staff of about 40 have built immunities throughout the years. But this year, for flu prevention, they offered the staff the vaccine, right at work. "Our health consultant recommended we offer flu shots to the staff, so we did that this fall."

Just further east, in Virginia, Apple Tree Learning Center has seen two cases of influenza as well. But overall, their classrooms have been pretty healthy. 

One thing they encourage is that kids wash their hands right away, when the arrive for the day. And then there's the non-stop cleaning. "There's constant hand-washing and disinfecting and sanitizing of tables and toys, throughout the day, every day," said Patricia Monacelli, the executive director.

They even have additional help taking care of toys in the gym and the door handles.

Over in Superior, at Newborn 2 School Education, they too focus on scrubbing up first thing. "A lot of germs are transferred from the home, to the car, to the center," explained Amy Benson, the owner. 

Benson said they also sanitize the toys that end up in the little tykes' mouths. As for cleaning the rest of the center, they use something a little different. "We do not use bleach. We use Formula 200. It's approved by the state of Wisconsin to use in place of bleach. It doesn't smell and doesn't stain."

She also told us that staff try and open the windows occasionally, to circulate fresh air. And they really encourage the kids get outside. "Our under 2 can go outside until it's 20, with the windchill. And above 2 can go outside until it's 0 with a windchill. Fresh air helps with the sickness."

At University Nursery School in Duluth, they use a bleach solution to spray down the toys each night. And at least one location, they use a sanitizer for their toys and small furniture, which has been working overtime this winter. The centers also post what illnesses their kids end up being diagnosed with, outside of the child's room.

Each center Eyewitness News spoke with said they require their little charges to be fever free for 24 hours, without the help of medication, in order to return. At Newborn 2 School Education, they send home a reminder note with parents, showing them when the children can return.

The timelines can be hard for parents to juggle, but they are important.

"We know parents have to work. Even keeping that kiddo home an extra day, to get their immune system back up, it really helps cut down on the sickness," Benson said.

Monacelli added, "The best way to keep each other healthy is to stay home if you're sick, and keep your kids home if they're sick."

Thankfully, Akash and Olivia aren't sick any longer. "I kept feeling better and better and better," chimed Olivia. 

As for those families who might still be fighting the flu, their mom has this advice. "It's hard. You're going to be tired. You can get through it. Just have to be positive. And enjoy the snuggles."

It's still not too late to get the flu shot, according to doctors. According to the CDC, 80% of kids who died of the flu LAST season were not vaccinated.

Thank you to the centers for sharing their words of wisdom with us. 



Renee Passal

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