The younger the child, the more sensitive they are
Like primary schools, the indoor environment of daycare centres is an important area of attention. Research commissioned by the government shows that in particular the air quality during the winter months and the temperature in the summer period do present a problem. Sleeping areas in particular leave a lot to be desired. The youngest children are the most sensitive to contaminated air and can develop health problems, or a worsening of existing health problems, as a result. For this reason, and because young children spend a relatively large amount of time indoors, good ventilation is vitally important for them.
The indoor climate of daycare centres not only becomes contaminated through the evaporation of volatile substances from materials such as flooring and curtains, but also by the air exhaled and odours emitted by the children. Dust mites and moulds can also be a serious issue. The amount of moisture in the indoor air plays an important role in this.
A good balance between temperature and air humidity is important for the air quality of the play and sleep areas. Excess humidity stimulates the growth of bacteria and viruses and prolongs their survival period. Micro-organisms such as dust mites and moulds also need moisture to be able to survive and multiply. They produce substances (allergens) that can cause allergies and asthma symptoms. A low air humidity, on the other hand, can lead to irritation of the eyes, noise and throat and to reduced resistance to infection. Children with respiratory conditions can experience extra symptoms as a result. An optimal relative air humidity in daycare centres is between 40% and 60%. With good ventilation, this can easily be achieved.
Many children are sensitive to allergens. Research has shown that most daycare centres contain sources of allergens. Existing asthma or eczema can be exacerbated in children who are exposed to these substances. And children without these kinds of conditions can still become sick due to certain factors in the indoor environment. It is therefore advisable to minimize the level of allergens in daycare centres as much as possible. For this reason, ventilation is hugely important, both for the children and for the staff.
Good ventilation calls for expert precision. Factors which must be taken into account include the size of the room, the activities of the children in the room and the number of children. It is important to exclude draughts. However, there must be adequate air circulation, so that stale air can be extracted and fresh air supplied. With mechanical ventilation the outside air is filtered before being blown into the building, and is therefore even cleaner than the air coming in through the windows.
The cleaner the air, the fewer the allergens that can cause allergies and other health problems. Good ventilation keeps these culprits out and ensures a healthy indoor climate. So the smallest among us can play and sleep in the environment they deserve.