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Feb 7, 2013

Doctors warn against new childcare health rules

Ah Australia; beautiful one day, nanny state the next.
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has come up with new guidelines to protect the little children in childcare centres across the nation, including a directive against blowing out candles on birthday cakes: 
KIDS will be banned from blowing out candles on communal birthday cakes, under strict new hygiene rules for childcare. 
The NHMRC is urging childcare centres to stand up to parents who insist on sending a sick child to daycare - even if they have a medical certificate.  And daycare staff will now have to wash toys, doorknobs, floors and cushion covers every day. 
The new guidelines state that kids who want to blow out a candle on their birthday should bring their very own cupcake - to avoid blowing germs all over a shared cake.  "Children love to blow out their candles while their friends are singing 'Happy birthday'," the document says. 
"To prevent the spread of germs when the child blows out the candles, parents should either provide a separate cupcake, with a candle if they wish, for the birthday child and (either) enough cupcakes for all the other children ... (or) a large cake that can be cut and shared."  The NHMRC says children who play in the sandpit must wash their hands with alcohol sanitiser before and afterwards.
The Australian Medical Association though, disagree with this claiming that attempts to ‘bubble wrap’ children is unhealthy in the longer term:
But the Australian Medical Association warned the clean-freak regulations place "kids in a bubble".  "If somebody sneezes on a cake, I probably don't want to eat it either - but if you're blowing out candles, how many organisms are transferred to a communal cake, for goodness' sake?" AMA president Steve Hambleton told News Ltd. 
He also criticised the rule requiring children to wash their hands before and after playing in a sandpit.  "Just wash your hands before you eat," he said. 
"It's normal and healthy to be exposed to a certain amount of environmental antigens that build up our immune systems.  "If you live in a plastic bubble you're going to get infections (later in life) that you can't handle."
Apart from the nanny state taking all of the fun out of being a kid, the AMA are correct in railing about the attempts of well meaning idiots to protect children from contact with germs.  In childhood we catch lots of ailments and gradually build up a resistance to them as we go along.  Let our immune systems get the contact with the things they are supposed to protect us from and do its job.
Another worrying aspect to this is the increased expense necessary to carry out the new guidelines, which adds another level of costs that will eventually price childcare out of the market.   

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