Supporting and promoting the health, safety and wellbeing of children is one of the most important responsibilities of an early childhood education and care service.
Approved providers, nominated supervisors and educators have a duty of care for all children in their service and must ensure they meet the individual health needs of each child.
Adequate health, hygiene and food safety practices for handling, preparing and storing food must be implemented at the service at all times.
Services that provide food for children must have a policy outlining their responsibilities for meeting children’s nutritional requirements and how this will be achieved. A weekly menu that accurately describes the food and beverages provided must also be displayed.
Educators should be particularly aware of safety standards for storing and reheating food, including food or beverages brought in from home.
Food that is consumed by children within a service must be consumed in a hygienic manner. Maintaining hand hygiene and closely supervising children during mealtimes are vital to ensuring food is consumed hygienically and safely.
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food and dietary guidelines.
Encouraging good hygiene practices in services helps children develop lifelong positive hygiene habits and reduces the risk of cross infection between children and adults.
Approved providers must take reasonable steps to prevent the spread of infectious diseases at the service and ensure written hygiene policies and procedures, based on recommendations from recognised authorities such as the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), are in place to guide educators’ practice.
While it is not possible to prevent the spread of all infections and illnesses, effective illness management practices and maintaining high standards of hygiene significantly reduce the likelihood of children becoming ill.
Educators can guide, model and reinforce good health and personal hygiene habits with children by implementing a range of effective practices to control the spread of diseases, such as:
- promoting children’s self-help and self-care skills
- reinforcing positive hygiene habits through educational programs and play experiences, as well as through the daily routines such as handwashing, mealtimes, nappy changing and toileting
- ensuring equipment and toys are regularly cleaned/washed and are well maintained
- keeping facilities such as bathrooms, kitchens, sleep and rest areas, and play areas clean
- displaying signs and posters about hygiene procedures at child height in bathrooms and play areas
- implementing appropriate food handling, preparation and storage practices
- providing written information to families about the recommended immunisation schedule for children and the exclusion periods of illness and infectious diseases.
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stopping the spread of infection.
Supporting children’s individual medical needs
Under Regulation 90, approved providers must ensure that their services have a policy for dealing with medical conditions in children (for example diabetes, asthma, allergy or anaphylaxis), even if they have no children with a medical condition at the service. Australia has one of the highest rates of food allergies in the developed world, with approximately 1 in 10 infants developing a food allergy before their first birthday.
Risk minimisations plans must also be developed in consultation with the parents of a child.
To ensure the safety of each child at a service, approved providers can implement the following practices for effective medical management.
- Ensure all staff members, including new staff members, are made aware of any children with a health care need, allergy or relevant medical condition.
- Regularly audit and update the content of first aid kits to ensure the contents within have not expired and are in sufficient supply.
- Develop a communication plan and clear procedures for managing children’s allergies.
- Undertake specific and ongoing training relating to the management of anaphylaxis or medical emergencies to ensure all staff are confidently able to meet the health needs of children.
- Ensure up to date information relating to the nature or management of a child’s specific health care needs, allergies or relevant medical condition, including an updated medical management plan, is sought from parents regularly.
- Implement an effective food allergen management program.
- Provide clear, up-to-date and accurate information on the food allergen status of the foods provided at the service.
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Approved providers and educators should regularly reflect on their approach to health and hygiene and ask themselves the following questions.
- How do we keep informed of, and implement, current practices and guidelines from recognised authorities in relation to
- child and adult immunisation
- allergies and anaphylaxis
- food safety and hygiene practices
- administration of medication?
- How do we find out about individual children’s health requirements and ensure that all relevant staff members are informed about these? How do we keep this information current?
- How do we maintain acceptable levels of hygiene while minimising the use of toxic products?
- How do we ensure that families are informed about and follow the service’s policy and guidelines for the exclusion of ill children?
- What arrangements do we have in place to regularly review and update our child health related policies and procedures?
- How do we communicate with families if there is an outbreak of an infectious disease?
- When do we need to notify the Regulatory Authority and/or Queensland Health?
- How do we ensure that all educators understand and implement correct procedures relating to food handling, transportation and storage?
- How do we plan food and beverages to meet the preferences of each child as well as their dietary and nutrition requirements, including during excursions or other special activities?
- How do we incorporate discussions and activities about healthy eating, physical activity and allergies into children’s everyday experiences so that each child is encouraged to make healthy food and beverage choices?