Young children get infectious diseases and, as a caregiver, you will be exposed to these same illnesses. Prevention of illness is a concern not only to protect childrens health, but also to lessen the probability that you will become ill. While children are more likely to get some infectious diseases than adults, protecting yourself and the other children in the classroom can lessen the probability that you will become ill.
One significant form of protection is through immunization. If you are not sure whether you or your staff have had certain childhood diseases like chickenpox as a child, the health care provider can be asked to do a blood test to check for levels of immunity.
Immunizations for Caregivers
Influenza. The flu season is never a pleasant one in the childcare setting. Because most young children are not immunized against influenza (except those with chronic conditions), the flu is likely to appear in your center every year. Flu shots are given in the fall at the beginning of the flu season. A new vaccine is developed each year to protect against the viruses most likely to appear. Check with your physician or local health department about a flu shot. Many large businesses now provide free flu shots to all staff.
Tuberculosis Screening. Caregivers who have not been tested for TB (or do not know if they have been tested) should first have a two-step check. If the first check is negative, the test is repeated a month later. Checks for all staff should be repeated every two years.
Tetanus, Diphtheria (TD). A three-dose series of this vaccine is typically given in childhood. If caregivers have received these three doses, a booster dose should be given every 10 years. Also, this vaccine is often given following an injury, unless the persons health records show a recent booster dose.
Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR). Adults born before 1957 can generally be assumed to be immune to measles because they probably had the disease as a child. Immunity to measles and mumps can generally be considered to be effective if the caregivers have a history of the diseases. If a staff person is uncertain about immunity to rubella, a blood test should be done to confirm the immunity. The vaccines for these diseases are usually given together as a MMR vaccine. If no evidence of immunity exists, two doses of the vaccines often are recommended. This is even more important if a woman is considering pregnancy as rubella can cause serious defects to the unborn child.
Polio. Vaccination for polio typically occurs in childhood and consists of three doses followed by a supplementary dose six months after the initial series.
Hepatitis A. Vaccines for hepatitis A are typically given if a local health department determines the risk for the community is high.
Hepatitis B. Childcare staff who may have contact with blood or blood-contaminated body fluids are at risk for hepatitis B. Many school systems and childcare centers now require hepatitis B vaccinations for staff. The vaccine consists of a series of three doses.
Chickenpox. Immunity to chickenpox usually can be assumed if childcare staff knows they once had the disease. If a staff person is uncertain of immunity, then the chickenpox vaccine should be administered.