As we head into winter, respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), are common in the community and illnesses can be easily spread in schools and early childhood centres.
Influenza and influenza-like illness (ILI) has symptoms of fever/chills, cough, muscle aches and headaches. To help reduce the spread of an ILI in early childhood centres, we recommend the following actions:
1. Children or staff with flu-like symptoms should not be at your centre. A sick person can still be infectious even when they appear well and need to stay home from their centre until 2 days (48hrs) after all signs of flu have gone. In general a flu-like illness lasts 3-4 days but it can be up to 7 days.
People worried about their symptoms or who have an underlying condition that makes them vulnerable to severe influenza illness, for example - asthma, can telephone Healthline 0800 611 116 or their family doctor for further advice.
If children or staff become unwell with flu-like symptoms while at their centre, they need to go home to be cared for. While waiting to go home they need to be kept in an area away from others and monitored until they leave the centre. Staff caring for children with flu-like symptoms can protect themselves by wearing gloves, an apron and a face mask if the child is coughing. Hands need to be washed regularly during contact with a sick person.
2. Prevent the spread of germs make sure everyone covers their mouth and nose with tissues when coughing and sneezing and put used tissues in a covered bin or a plastic bag. (If there are no tissues available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve – not your hands). Remember to wash or use hand sanitiser on your hands afterwards.
3. Encourage children and staff to wash their hands regularly. Clean hands are the single most important factor in preventing the spread of germs. Wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water, then dry them for 20 seconds with a dry towel or paper towel.
Wash hands before preparing food, eating, and after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose and visiting the toilet. Consider having hand sanitising stations and/or hand washing reminder signs and stickers throughout the centre.
Regularly clean surfaces that are touched a lot (e.g. door handles, bench tops, toilet and bathroom areas). The flu viruses can live up to 48 hours on hard surfaces. One of the most effective and cheap disinfecting solutions to clean surfaces is a solution of household bleach and water.
Make a new bleach solution daily using either of the following formulas:
- Make a bleach solution at 1:10 ratio (1 part bleach and 9 parts water) or,
- To make 1 litre = 50ml of bleach and add water to make 1 litre or, ¼ cup of bleach and add 4 cups of water
- To make 10 litres = 500ml (2 cups) of bleach and add water to make 10 litres
If your centre uses contract cleaners you may wish to share this information with them.
The influenza vaccine is free for children aged four years and under who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness or have other medical conditions that increase the risk of acquiring influenza or developing complications from influenza.
Visit the Ministry of Health website for more information or check with your doctor or nurse for details.
How can I care for a child with the flu at home?
Visit www.kidshealth.org.nz/flu-influenza for advice.
Visit our Influenza - Information for the education sector page for resources for winter illness.