Health Capsules

ECELS offers brief articles to insert into parent and staff newsletters, post on bulletin boards or otherwise share information on health and safety topics. Whenever ECELS publishes a new Health Capsule, ECELS sends an E-Mail Alert from ECELS to everyone who signed up on the ECELS home page for these alerts. You may reproduce these brief articles as long as the wording of sentences is not changed, and ECELS is indicated as the source.

 The National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care has separately published the nutrition, physcial activity and screen time standards from Caring for Our Children. View these obesity prevention standards on the website of the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care.

Obesity is epidemic in the United States. Preventing obesity starts in early childhood. Learning life skills for physical activity and nutrition are key. ECELS has an online self-learning module to teach users to evaluate their program’s physical activity and nutrition practices and polices for 3 to 5 year old children. The module includes a self-assessment and development of an action plan for program improvement as well as many other resources.

Early education and child care professionals should include preventive practices in the curriculum. In addition, early educators have many opportunities to notice possible areas of decay on children’s teeth. Coupling prevention and early recognition of possible trouble with referral to an oral health professional can save significant suffering. Early decay looks like dull white bands on the smooth surface of the tooth at the gum line. It is caused by bacterial activity in the mouth. It is a form of infectious disease. Early decay may be reversible with fluoride treatment and removal of plaque that builds up on the teeth. If this early decay is not treated, it becomes yellow, brown or black spots. These spots are places where decay destroyed the tooth enamel. If you see chalky white spots or discoloration on a child's teeth, urge the child's family to take the child to a dentist as soon as possible.

Teach how to manage aggressive behavior with "Play Nicely." Pediatrician Dr. Seth Scholer developed this 40 minute free instructional multi-media program. It is available at www.playnicely.org. The Multimedia Program: Smartphone and Tablet Version runs on a computer. The program is Research done at the Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University shows the instructional video lessens physical punishment. Many studies show physical punishment of young children is harmful. It fosters aggression, later mental health problems such as depression and an increased incidence of spouse and child abuse as physically punished children grow into adults.

As of the end of February 2013, all play yards sold in the United States must meet the new and improved federal safety standard to prevent injuries and deaths of children. All child care providers who care for infants and toddlers and new parents, should be aware that newer is better when it comes to the safety of play yards. The new federal standard addresses hazards associated with play yard side rails, corner brackets, and mattress attachments. These changes are meant to prevent strangulation, entrapment, lacerations, and other injuries. New tests add to existing requirements that include a stability test to prevent the play yard from tipping over, latch and lock mechanisms to keep the play yard from folding on a child when it is being used, and minimum side height requirements to  prevent children from getting out of the play yard on their own. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a poster that summarizes the new standard and is available in English (PDF). The poster also has Safe Sleep tips to help keep baby safe in his or her sleep environment. Be sure to post this free resource wherever parents and care givers might see it. Reviewed and reaffirmed 7/2018

State regulations require documentation that the child has received vaccines and screening tests according to the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Any document (including an electronic printout from the child's medical record) that provides this information is acceptable. The Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) offers a form that allows health care providers to say whether the child is up to date, the CD 51. This Child Health Report form was last revised in 2008. It does not require the dates and results of the recommended screening tests. It has a check box to indicate "yes" or "no" that the child has received all the recommended screenings. The only screening information it requests is the results of any abnormal vision, hearing or lead screening. These are important, but not all the screenings that assess whether a child is healthy and ready to learn. 

Seize this great opportunity to improve nutrition for children in your care. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Team Nutrition recently released 30 award-winning recipes. They were picked from those submitted to the nationalRecipes for Healthy Kids Competition. All recipes are child-tested and child-approved, using only healthy ingredients.  They feature Child Care and Adult Food Program (CACFP) foods. All of the recipes are low in total fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. Use them with the Crediting Handbook to easily document for CACFP. 

Children who eat more salty foods also drink more sweetened beverages. Children who drink more than one sugar-containing beverage per day are 26% more likely to be overweight or obese. These findings are from a study that enrolled over 4,200 Australian children. The study findings are in the January 2013 issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Children engage in active outdoor play every day. Sturdy shoes or sneakers help them run, climb, jump, and explore safely. The arrival of warm weather can encourage more vigorous play, but also the tendency to wear unsafe footwear.
 
Many children choose different footwear on warm days. Flip-flops, loose sandals, and rubber clogs are unsafe shoes. Avoid shoes that can fall off or catch on objects during active play. Unsafe shoes increase the risk of injury due to falls. Encourage parents/guardians to provide a pair of sneakers or other safe shoes to keep in the child’s cubby for use during active play.

In a June 2011 report, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended obesity control measures for children in 5 areas:
1. Growth Monitoring
2. Physical Activity
3. Healthy Eating
4. Limiting Screen Time and Marketing Exposure for Children
5. Sufficient Sleep

 The national American Academy of Pediatrics has a FREE, online Spanish-language magazine. The articles are about common child health concerns such as immunizations, the importance of sleep, and how to manage stress.

The majority of early learning programs serve some children with special health needs. These are children with a special medical, behavioral, or developmental condition. They are children who require care that differs in some way from that of typically developing children. For example, children need individual care plans if they have asthma, a severe allergic reaction to a food, seizures or diabetes. Children who have challenging behavior require care plans too.

ECELS has developed many tools to help programs set up a care plan for a child with any type of special need. The ECELS website has forms, a checklist and a process guide to download and use to make effective care plans.

The skin of infants and toddlers is more sensitive to ultraviolet radiation. Their skin absorbs chemicals more easily than the skin of adults and older children. Sun exposure can cause unhealthy changes in the skin at any age. Of the three types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB damage skin. Children should spend a lot of time outdoors. Protecting their skin from sun damage is very important.

No matter what type or tone of skin a person has, from infancy to old age, everyone should have protection from sun exposure. Sunscreen products and sun protective clothing help prevent sunburn, skin cancer and early skin aging throughout life. The best protection is wearing light weight, tightly-woven sun-protective hats and clothing outside. Wearing sun protective clothing should be combined with wearing sun screen after 6 months of age.

Active supervision minimizes harm to children. All staff should review the fact sheet Active Supervision At-A-Glance Six Strategies To Keep Children Safe Active Supervision At-A-Glance Six Strategies To Keep Children Safe. The fact sheet is available in English and Spanish. Although written for Head Start, these key strategies apply to all types of care. They apply to all age groups, and all activities.

The key strategies are:
• Set up the environment – Keep furniture at waist height or shorter, avoid clutter, make all spaces fully observable.
• Position staff – Assign staff to locations where they can hear and see all the children. They should have a clear path to each child to take quick action. Caregivers/teachers should stay close to children who might need special help or support.
• Scan and count – Keep checking the location and activity of each child. Count the children frequently (e.g. at least every 10-15 minutes.) Count while moving from one location to another.
• Listen – Pay attention to the sounds in the environment. Specific sounds or the absence of them may signify reason for concern. Use sounds such as a bell attached to doors in the room, or equipment being moved to alert staff to provide closer supervision.
• Anticipate children’s behavior – Use knowledge both of typical behavior and possible unusual behavior. Be prepared to modify supervision, planned activities or other elements to help each child succeed and avoid harm.
• Engage and redirect – Give children opportunities to problem solve, using observation to intercede when the child needs support.
To learn more about active supervision, see The Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center of Head Start and search for “Active Supervision”.    Reviewed and reaffirmed 7/2018

Swaddling (wrapping tightly) in a blanket calms many young babies. However, improper use of this practice increases risk of harm. If the blanket is too loose, it can move up to cover the infant’s face. Loose blankets around the infant’s head are a risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS.) Swaddling may cause overheating, another SIDS risk factor. If the blanket wraps the legs so they are not free to move, researchers find the baby is more likely to develop hip disease.