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.

Every 3 Minutes a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room and over 60 percent of food allergy reactions at school take place in preschools and child care facilities, notes the Food Allergy Research & Education’s (FARE) website. Keeping children with food allergies safe and healthy can present a special challenge in early care and education programs if you are not prepared.

  • Learn to modify early learning and school-age programs for a child with a food allergy. Plan for handling a food allergy response by reviewing the training presentations from Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) such as Save a Life: Recognizing and Responding to Anaphylaxis”, “Keeping Students Safe and Included”, and “Navigating Early Childhood and Food Allergies”.
  • Use FARE’s Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan, formerly the Food Allergy Action Plan, that outlines recommended treatment in case of an allergic reaction, is signed by a physician and includes emergency contact information. PA Keystone STARS Performance Standards LM.2.5 specifies policies relating to care plans for children with special needs including food allergies. Resources available include – “Tips for Managing Students with Food Allergies During a Shelter-in-Place Emergency”, “Tips for Field Trips”, “Tips for Cleaning”, “Tips for Non-Food Treats and Rewards”.
  • See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care and Education Programs for additional recommended plans, practices, and procedures. 5-2021

In America, 1 in 6 children may not know where they will get their next meal. The U.S. Department of Agriculture tracks this information. You may not know unless you ask parents about it.  Children without a stable supply of food may develop serious health problems. They may have poor growth and development. They may develop behavior difficulties. They may have frequent illnesses and hospitalizations. Some have iron deficiency anemia. 

Food-borne illness is very common. The risk of this type of illness increases in warm weather. Sending food from home and eating out-of-doors may allow perishable food to reach temperatures that foster bacterial growth. A 2011 study reported in the journal, Pediatrics measured temperatures of lunches that families packed and sent with their preschool children. The researchers found only 1.6% of lunches with perishable items were at safe temperature. The study was done in nine Texas child care centers and measured temperatures in the packed lunches of more than 700 preschoolers. Even when sent with ice packs, most of the lunches were at unsafe temperatures over an hour before the food was ready to be served. The message is clear: Early educators and families must adopt practices that ensure food is at a safe temperature before feeding it to children. 

A study in the August 2018 issue of Pediatrics, "The Nutritional Quality of Gluten-Free Products for Children," examined the nutritional content of gluten-free products marketed specifically to children. The research showed that products labeled gluten-free are not nutritionally better compared to "regular" children's foods (those without a gluten free claim). In addition, many of the gluten-free foods for children had less protein, high sugar levels, and were of poor nutritional quality due to high levels of sugar, sodium, and/or fat.

Halloween is an exciting time of year for kids, and to help ensure they have a safe holiday, here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Feel free to use any part or all of these tips as a parent handout, with acknowledgment of the AAP as the source.

ALL DRESSED UP:
• Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
• If going out after dark, add reflective tape or striping to costumes and trick-or-treat bags.
• Use non-toxic makeup and well-fitting decorative hats instead of masks so children can see well.
• Use only flame resistant costumes, wigs etc.
• Avoid any accessory that could trip a child or injure a child who stumbles.
• Equip all children and escorts with flashlights with fresh batteries.

CARVING A NICHE:
• Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers. An adult should do any cutting.
• Use a flashlight or glow stick instead candles.

HOME SAFE HOME:
• To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, parents should remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes and lawn decorations.
• Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
• Wet leaves or snow should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
• Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.

ON THE TRICK-OR-TREAT TRAIL:
• Remove trip hazards and provide good lighting on the path trick-or-treaters will use to your home.
• A parent or responsible adult carrying a cellphone should always accompany children on neighborhood rounds.
• If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic. 

 HEALTHY HALLOWEEN:
• A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
• Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
• Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped or suspicious items.
• Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween.
 ©2018 American Academy of Pediatrics - authorized for copying and distribution
- See more at: https://www.assuredhealthcare.com/speaking-of-healthcare/halloween-safety-tips Updated 7/2021

Hand hygiene is the cornerstone of infection prevention. Following correct hand hygiene techniques significantly reduces the spread of disease in all settings, especially where infants and children gather. Your hands can pick up disease-causing germs from any surface. If you then rub your eyes, touch your nose, put your fingers in your mouth or onto open skin, you can become ill. Cleaning your hands frequently and appropriately is the most important way to protect yourself and protect the people with whom you live and work.

Children need active play to be healthy and ready to learn. Playgrounds are an important part of vigorous outdoor play. They also pose a high risk for injury. Active supervision and equipment safety are necessary to prevent serious injuries, such as concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI). Symptoms of TBI can be mild or severe and can include nausea or vomiting and problems with balance, vision, or thinking.
A recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that playground-related brain injuries have risen significantly over the past decade. Monkey bars, playground gym, and swing use cause the most injuries.

Heart Healthy Habits
• Heart Disease can happen at any age. Nearly half of all Americans have at least one of the top three risk factors for developing heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.
• Due to higher rates of obesity and high blood pressure today our younger generation is now at risk for developing heart disease at any even earlier age. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/any_age.htm

What can families do to keep both their heart and their child’s heart healthy?
• Stay physically active and encourage your children to do the same.
• Be positive and be a good role model to your children.
• Manage your stress.
• Limit screen time all around.
• Keep all scheduled check-ups.
• Grocery shop/meal plan and prepare together.
• Avoid processed food when you can and eat more fruits and vegetables! https://fruitsandveggies.org/ 
• Set small but realistic, SMART goals together as a family!

o  A SMART goal is one that is:

-  Specific (Eliminating soda and juice from your diet.)         
-  Measurable (make it a goal you can easily measure “Walk 3 times per week for 30 minutes.”)         
-  Attainable (make sure you can achieve it)         
-  Realistic (setting realistic goals will help you to keep moving forward)         
-  Trackable (tracking your progress over time is a great way to see just how far you’ve come!)

The American Heart Association is working to help kids and families live heart-healthy lives. Use these resources to help your family live longer, healthier lives.   https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HeathyKids/Healthy-Kids_UCM_304156_SubHomePage.jsp
 

Children die in hot vehicles every year. Heatstroke begins when the core body temperature reaches about 104 degrees and the ability to maintain or control body temperature is overwhelmed. Vehicles heat up quickly – even with a window rolled down two inches. If the outside temperature is in the low 80°s Fahrenheit, the temperature inside a vehicle can reach deadly levels in only 10 minutes! Children’s bodies overheat easily, and infants and children under four years of age are among those at greatest risk for heat-related illness. When left in a hot vehicle, a young child’s body temperature may increase three to five times as fast an adult. High body temperatures can cause permanent injury or even death.

Warning signs of heatstroke include:

  • Red, hot, and moist or dry skin
  • No sweating, even though the child is warm
  • Strong rapid pulse or slow weak pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion, or acting strangely

If a child exhibits any of these signs after being in a hot vehicle, call 911 or your local emergency number immediatelyCool the child rapidly. Spray the child with cool water - do NOT place child in an ice bath.

ALWAYS LOOK BEFORE YOU LOCK!

  • Always check the back seat before you lock the vehicle and walk away.
  • Get in the habit of always opening the back door to check the back seat before leaving a vehicle. Put something you will need like your cell phone, handbag, or briefcase, etc., in the back seat to create a reminder to open the back door to retrieve that item every time you park.
  • Keep a large stuffed animal in the child’s car seat. When the child is placed in the car seat, put the stuffed animal in the front passenger seat as a visual reminder that the child is in the back seat.
  • Distractions and/or a change in routine increase the risk of forgetting a child in a back seat. If someone else is driving your child, or your daily routine is altered, always check to make sure your child has arrived safely.
  • Have a strict policy in place with the childcare provider about morning drop-off.
    • If your child will not be attending childcare as scheduled, the parent’s responsibility is to call and inform the childcare provider.
    • If the child does not show up as scheduled, and the child care provider did not receive a call, the childcare provider pledges to contact the parent immediately to ensure the safety of your child.
  • Never leave a child alone in a car.
  • Never let children play in an unattended vehicle. Teach children that a vehicle is not a play area.
  • Never leave a child in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are partially open.
  • Observe and Report: If you see a child alone in a car, call 911, especially on warm days!

Resource: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

It’s unsafe and bad practice to leave a child unattended in a car for any reason, even for a quick stop – e.g. in a parking lot or elsewhere to pick up food from a restaurant. In PA, it is a summary offense as specified in PA Statute Title 75 3701.1 Leaving an unattended child in a motor vehicle.

For heatstroke prevention information cited above, click here. For other traffic injury prevention information, contact the PA Traffic Injury Prevention Project of the PA Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (PA-TIPP) at 1-800-CARBELT, 484-446-3008 or see their website and resource page. Updated 5/31/2022

Deciding when to exclude a child who is ill from early learning and education programs can be confusing for staff. Managing Infectious Diseases in Child Care and Schools: A Quick Reference Guide, clarifies the decision-making process. A child who is ill but does not require immediate medical attention should be excluded if the staff member determines the illness:
a. Prevents the child from participating comfortably in activities as determined by staff
b. Results in a need for care that is greater than the staff can provide without compromising the health and safety of other children
c. Poses a risk of spread of harmful diseases to others based on the list of specific excludable conditions
If any of the above criteria are met, the child should be excluded, regardless of the type of illness.

Immunization is a key component of early childhood development and health. Remember – early childhood and school readiness begin with good health! It is important for early childhood education staff to make immunization a priority. Foster an environment of health with:
• Immunization tracking
• Staff education and adult vaccination as needed
• Parent education
Early childhood education (ECE) programs are prone to disease outbreaks. Recent outbreaks of measles, flu and pertussis (whooping cough) have occurred in ECE settings. Unvaccinated children are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others. Babies are at high risk since they are too young to be fully vaccinated.

 National Immunization Awareness Month (August)       

Staying up-to-date with immunizations provides the best protection against disease and is essential to health. Getting vaccinations on time is still important during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is crucial that everyone—children, staff and parents—receive their regularly scheduled vaccines.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and guardians should schedule immunization appointments early. Some health care providers may have delays in scheduling and decreased appointment windows. Health care providers are taking every precaution to ensure the safety of patients, families, and staff. Call your health care provider if you have any questions or concerns about a scheduled well-child visit or immunizations in general. The Pennsylvania Departments of Education, Health, Human Services, and Insurance remind parents to ensure their children’s immunizations are up to date as part of back-to-school preparations.

Early Childhood Education staff should make immunization a priority. Foster an environment of health with:

  • Immunization tracking
  • Staff education and adult vaccination as needed
  • Parent education

Unvaccinated children are at increased risk for disease and can spread disease to others. Babies are at high risk since they are too young to be fully vaccinated. Un- and under-vaccinated people are a threat to children and adults who might not be able to receive certain vaccines due to other health conditions. Children who are not up-to-date with vaccines recommended for their age may be excluded from child care and schools if an outbreak occurs.

For more information to educate staff and parents, visit the following websites:

PA Partnerships for Children Fact Sheet - Pediatric Visits and Childhood Immunizations: Getting PA Kids Back in School and Back on Schedule (August 2021):  https://www.papartnerships.org/report/fact-sheet-pediatric-visits-and-childhood-immunizations-getting-pa-kids-back-in-school-and-back-on-schedule-august-2021/

Posted 8/2021

As you prepare for fall enrollment, now is a good time for early care and education programs to make sure all staff are up-to-date with recommended immunizations.  Getting vaccinated is an important part of staying healthy.  Routine immunization of adults is the best way to protect yourself against vaccine-preventable diseases.  Several of the vaccines routinely recommended for adults will prevent diseases that can be spread to children in the child care setting, including pertussis (whooping cough), varicella (chicken pox), measles, mumps, rubella and influenza.

Start your influenza vaccine efforts now too!  All children 6 months of age and older and staff should get influenza vaccine.   

Fall means cooler weather and is a good time to remind infant caregivers of safe sleep recommendations and the prohibition of use of blankets. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following guidance to promote safe sleep. Take these steps to help babies sleep safely and reduce the risk of sleep-related infant deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

There are about 3,500 sleep-related deaths among US babies each year. CDC supports the 2016 recommendations issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to reduce the risk of all sleep-related infant deaths, including SIDS. See How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained to learn more about these recommendations and other actions.

Recommendations for prevention of sleep-related infant deaths by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are as follows. Infants should be put to sleep on their backs for the first year of life. Comfortable rolling over from back to front and back to back again should be observed by the person/people who put the infant down to sleep to influence that person's decision about whether to return the child to back positioning if the child rolls over onto his/her tummy. Infants should sleep on a firm and flat sleep surface, without any loose bedding, and not in any type of seating device. Infants should not be placed to sleep on soft bedding or soft furniture. Overheating and head covering should be avoided.

A recent study in Pediatrics, “Infant Deaths in Sitting Devices,” reviewed the safety of infant sitting devices. The study found over 300 sleep-related infant deaths from 2004-2014 happened in car seats, strollers, bouncers, swings, and other infant seats.