Sensory materials in child care : an assessment of illness risk / by Heidi J. Pitfield.
Pitfield, Heidi J.
Master of Public Health
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Objective. The objective of this study was to assess the risk of illness attributable to sensory use in licensed child care settings. Design. Four child care centres from one large corporation in the same health region were recruited. Child attendance and illness records for children aged 2.5 - 5.0 years were contrasted against documented sensory use for a 16 month period. All four centres adhered to standardized agency infection prevention and control policies including hand hygiene, cleaning and disinfecting, sensory storage, use and disposal, and exclusion of ill children. Analyses were performed using Open Source Epidemiological Statistics for Public Health (OpenEpi version 2.3), and web-based calculators. Results. A total o f 125 child records were collected. The incidence rates, being the proportions of illness to total population, across the four centres for the 16 month period was found to not be equally distributed, X2 (3, N = 56.14) = 7.90,p <.05. All centres had higher incidence and incidence rates during winter months and illness remained elevated during the spring and early summer months. Incidence of illness per 100 child attendance days for the 16 month study period for Centres A, B, C and D were 2.63, 0.90, 1.49 and 2.70, respectively. Wet sensory use was more common than dry sensory use. Discussion. Illnesses in childcare were able to be explored using incidence rates, illness counts and child attendance days. The hypothesis was not able to be adequately addressed due to a lack of data. It is inconclusive whether a link or trend is noted between wet sensory use and illness. Sensory use in child care settings is an essential component of child learning and development and further research is needed to adequately assess the infectious disease transmission risk related to sensory material use in child care settings. Study area : Central Ontario.