UVA Pediatrician Offers a Parent’s Guide to Day Care Infections

UVA pediatrician Dr. Leigh Grossman's new book helps parents cope with the infections that inevitably travel through day care classrooms.

As a professor of pediatric infectious disease at the University of Virginia School of Medicine since 1981, Dr. Leigh Grossman has spent years developing her wealth of knowledge on the care of infants and children with infectious diseases.

But an experience in her early years of motherhood was what led Grossman to publish a book on childhood infections. After spending a typical day working in the UVA Medical Center’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Grossman went to pick up her own children from day care.

“All of the children were listening to a story when the day care teacher pulled a hankie out of her blouse and proceeded to wipe all of their noses with the one piece of cloth,” Grossman said. “That’s when I thought we needed to take the infection-control practices that are routine in the hospital setting and teach that information to the day care world.”

Grossman went on to publish eight editions of “Infection Control in the Daycare Center and Preschool,” a book that guides pediatricians, family practice physicians, nurses, public health providers and day care center directors on the best practices for preventing and managing childhood infections in this high-risk setting. The book has been popular and widely utilized in the day care world, and Grossman recently learned that her book’s audience has grown to include parents.

“One of the pediatricians who I trained with told me that she copies pages of the book and hands them to her patients’ parents,” Grossman said. “I cannot keep copies of this book in my office because the administrative, nursing and medical staff that I work with continually request copies of the book for their personal use.”

So Grossman set out to provide a handbook for her new audience. This month, she published “The Parent’s Survival Guide to Daycare Infections,” written for mothers, fathers, grandparents and care-givers.

Grossman recently discussed her latest book and some of its key concepts with UVA Today.

Q. What inspired you to write this book?

A. I wanted to edit a book by the best infectious disease physicians that is a professional guide for parents and provides them with the information they need in a user-friendly format.

The book includes chapters on topics such as what to look for when choosing a day care center, recommendations for vaccines for both enrollees and staff, and information on appropriate and inappropriate antibiotic use. I teach undergraduates, medical students, pediatric residents and infectious disease subspecialty fellows. I am happy to have parents be the next constituency that I will teach.

Q. What kinds of questions does the book set out to answer?

A. One of the most useful chapters in this book includes a table that shows parents what to do when their child has been diagnosed with or exposed to an infection. It lists the specific germs, how these different infections are spread, how long the incubation period is, and most importantly, how long their sick child needs to stay at home.

Q. How does the book address the topic of vaccines?

A. Many of our vaccines are against severe and potentially life-threatening illnesses. Vaccines do carry a miniscule risk of side effects, but these risks pale in comparison to the actual diseases, such as tetanus, influenza, meningococcal meningitis and whooping cough, all of which are still present in the United States and around the world.

Vaccines have truly changed the field of pediatric infectious disease over the past 30 years. While vaccines do not eradicate these organisms, they do prevent these infections and have markedly reduced, and in some cases eliminated, the number of children hospitalized for these diseases.

Q. What do you hope readers will learn from the book?

A. There are many infectious diseases that make parents and grandparents worry about sending their children into the day care world. However, the majority of the infections in day care and preschool children are mild coughs, colds, gastrointestinal and skin infections. I am eager to teach parents that these infections are a normal part of growing up, and their children actually need to have these infections in order to develop normal and mature immune function.

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Kaylyn Christopher

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