Deciding on a daycare center to take care of preschool children is an increasingly difficult decision. Parents are looking for facilities that are safe, clean, nurturing and convenient. It is an especially harrowing decision in the wake of the pandemic and its lingering consequences.
Health officials have warned that daycare centers are already “germ factories” regardless of the worldly concerns at play outside their doors. Yet, one recent study revealed that molds and yeasts are far more common inside daycare centers than outside of them. These can lead to respiratory issues for children.
Certain building features and the number of children attending any given center influence the molds and yeasts found. These fungi have probably developed from indoor sources, according to researchers from the University of Oslo.
“This information is important to understand the alarming increase in chronic diseases like asthma and allergies in children,” reported the study’s first author and university faculty member Dr. Eva Lena Estensmo.
While the research focused on data collected from 125 daycare centers in Norway, it reflects similar conditions in daycare centers in Europe and North America. Regardless of the problem’s scope, the effort was motivated by the rise in chronic allergies and asthma among preschool children and the limited knowledge about indoor microbiomes at these centers.
“Fungal growth can lead to poor indoor air quality, and some fungi are associated with allergic reactions and respiratory symptoms that may lead to chronic respiratory diseases,” Estensmo explained.
The high diversity of yeasts found in these centers surprised the research team. “Many might be associated with the human body. We don’t fully know whether the yeasts are especially associated with children, but we have some indications—work in progress—that far more yeasts are present in daycares than in other indoor environments,” Estensmo noted.
Despite these and other concerns, parents looking into daycare centers can rely on reputable checklists to help them make safe choices.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, for example, offers a five-step guide to choosing a daycare center. Developed via ChildCare.gov, it recommends starting searches early, learning about the difference between daycare centers and providers, reviewing health and safety requirements, and visiting any facility with a thorough list of questions.
Care.com is a platform for finding high-quality family care that offers an overview for determining the health and safety of any center. Among other issues, it notes the centers need to be supervised and have highly trained staff members who can, among other things, administer medicine properly and handle food safely. Centers also must maintain high cleaning procedures.