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 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. 

Brushing children’s teeth during the day is a great way to promote health. It may also reduce the risk of tooth decay for young children. Bacteria can grow on toothbrushes that have been in someone’s mouth. They grow especially well on wet toothbrushes that are kept in closed, dark places. Follow these steps to make sure toothbrushes stay clean. Wet toothbrush bristles should not be covered. They should air dry.

Do you or the families you serve transport children? Review performance standards for transporting children safely in early care and education programs. Share this information with parents who transport their children in vehicles other than a public bus. The model policy is consistent with Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards.

Chicks, Turtles, Lizards and Frogs - Oh My!

Spring is here! More choices for outdoor play. Take time to explore nature with the children in your care. Well-intentioned directors may want to incorporate hatching eggs into their curriculum. Caring for Our Children (CFOC), Standard - Prohibited Animals reminds us chickens and ducks excrete E. coli O157:H7, Salmonella, and other bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) webpage cautions, “… Because young children are more likely to get sick from harmful germs that animals can carry, CDC recommends that infants and children under 5 years old avoid contact with the following animals, which are commonly associated with outbreaks of disease:
•Amphibians (frogs, toads, newts, and salamanders)
Early care and education staff and parents must remember the risks. Children are more likely to get infected with the bacteria if they put unwashed hands into their mouths after touching a reptile or hermit crab. Follow CFOC guidance for prohibited animals. Avoid the risks. Do not collect or touch chicks, ducklings, reptiles, hermit crabs, or any prohibited animal. Encourage careful hand hygiene for everyone who interacts with animals. Revised and updated 5-2019

Water play offers wonderful developmental learning opportunities.  However, early educators must control the risks of drowning and spread of infection from contaminated water. It takes less than 30 seconds for a young child to begin to drown. More than 250 children less than 5 years of age drown each year. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that most children age 4 and older should learn to swim. Children between 1 and 4 years of age may benefit from formal swimming lessons. However, nobody should rely on a child’s swimming skills to become less vigilant about supervising a child in the water.  To learn more about how to reduce the risk of drowning, go to the websites of the Consumer Product Safety Commission at and the AAP at Search for “drowning” on both sites. Preventing bad germs from spreading through contact with water requires vigilance too. Early care and education providers must pay attention to controlling both of these risks. 

Pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, is on the rise.  Whooping cough can kill infants who are too young to have received all of their pertussis vaccine doses. Infants and young children routinely receive a vaccine called DTaP. The letters stand for diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis.