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Myth Buster: Children in Daycare Get Sick

Children inevitably put objects in their mouths and use dirty hands, even in the finest childcare facilities.


By rubbing their eyes or in various ways, they can catch a variety of typical "daycare diseases," such as:


  •      Upper respiratory infections and colds.
  •      Red eye
  •      Gastroenteritis, sometimes known as stomach flu, is caused by several viruses and bacteria.
  •      Children under the age of five are most frequently affected by hand, foot, and mouth illnesses. Fever, redness, and mouth sores are symptoms.


Do kids who attend daycare get sick more frequently than other kids?


It is not a binary answer, as one may see, to have more frequent self-resolving illness due to close contact, sharing food and water, the health of the caregiver, and the hygiene of daycare. the following contributors are present in outer environments as well (joint families/playgrounds/swimming pools etc.)


  •      Increasing mobility and curiosity
  •      Dirty hands and objects in the mouth
  •      Outdoor pollutants/viruses
  •      Vaccination status- poor preventive measures
  •      Decreased handwashing/mask- lifestyle practices.


However, robust immunity will lead to a less severe illness and a quicker recovery. This is multi-factorial—genetic, nutritional, vaccination, and lifestyle practices.


Children in daycare are sick more frequently than children at home up to age 3, according to research from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Infection rates than even out. Infection rates in daycare children may even fall below those of their peers' in-home care in kindergarten and first grade, who may be exposed to some pathogens for the first time.


Is exposing them to colds at daycare helpful for their immune systems?


You may have heard that exposing children to pathogens frequently or at a young age is beneficial for their immune systems. But is there any basis for the claim? Is it possible that the frequent illnesses your kid has at daycare are for the best? In some cases, being exposed to certain illnesses at a young age helps people develop immunity to them, preventing them from contracting them later. This may make kindergarten absences easier for children who attend daycare. However, not all diseases operate in this manner; for instance, catching a stomach bug while attending daycare won't prevent you from catching one later.


The immune system is complex and infections can present differently, making it challenging to determine if it is beneficial for children to experience frequent illnesses from attending daycare. The immune system typically strengthens and gains knowledge through exposure, which can be achieved through vaccines or exposure to the environment. This exposure can help the immune system develop the necessary skills to fight off diseases and maintain long-term health. Research suggests that developing a robust immune system early in childhood may reduce the risk of developing autoimmune diseases.


Advice on Preventing Infections


Since many parents find it impractical to keep their children out of daycare, here are some additional factors to think about to keep your child as healthy as possible:


  •      Vaccinating your child against the flu every year and making sure all of their other immunizations are current
  •      Ensure that your child is receiving the nutrition they require for a healthy immune system. Making sure they consume adequate amounts of protein, fiber, and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) while avoiding sugar and processed meals is one way to achieve this.
  •      Preventing your child from being exposed to multiple groups of children who might be sick by avoiding other daycare-type situations, such as a gym daycare or a church daycare.
  •      As your baby gets older, discourage them from sucking their thumbs or using pacifiers because they can be a good source of pathogens.
  •      As your child gets older, teach them to regularly wash their hands.


In the first year or two of daycare, frequent infections are very common and typically not a cause for alarm. This is crucial to understand. Call your pediatrician if and when your child is ill to discuss the best course of action. Additionally, since your child could need to miss a lot of daycares due to illness, try to keep your work schedule as flexible as you can and hold onto as many sick days as you can.


The Final Remark


The majority of illnesses in children attending the daycare are self-resolving with supportive care.
These illnesses are primarily because of close contact, sharing food and water, unwell caregivers, and the hygiene at the daycare perse.
Children are exposed to similar conditions in swimming pools, joint families, or play dates as well.


Irrespective of the situation, the following factors contribute to recurrent sickness in children:


  •      Nutritional status
  •      Genetic factors
  •      Vaccination status
  •     Lifestyle measures- Hand washing / wearing masks/ putting dirty hands and objects into the mouth
  •      Outdoor pollutants and viruses
Medanta Medical Team
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