Why Your Child Often Falls Sick
My child gets sick every two weeks. Here's why your child may be prone to repeat bouts of colds, infections, or other ailments—and what you can do to help.
Babies are born with immature immune systems. As a result, babies tend to get a high number of infections, usually 4 to 8 per year. Babies’ immune systems begin to mature soon after birth. The number of infections begins to go down with time. By the time children are of school-age, their rate of infection is usually the same as the rate for adults. Don’t worry. The common cold is very, well … common in young children — particularly those with older siblings and those who attend day care.
Your child is getting all those infections because he’s being exposed to new viruses all the time. The viruses are everywhere no matter how much you sanitize and clean. There are at least 200 different cold viruses and they’re getting tricky, mutating all the time.
Your child’s body will build up immunity against these viruses when he’s exposed to them. But this takes time. It takes many years to build up immunity to viruses. Your child will be exposed to more if he or she attends daycare or preschool. Older siblings are great vectors to bring home viruses from school.
Before you throw in the towel, repeated run-ins with a runny nose aren’t necessarily a bad thing. And, in fact, may even be good. Studies show that frequent colds (and other minor illnesses, like ear infections) boost your child’s immune system. It makes him less susceptible to infection later in life. So while your child’s non-stop sniffles and sneezes might be hard on her nose (and your nerves), they may make her stronger and healthier down the road.
In the meantime though, you’d probably like to minimize your child’s suffering (and those sleepless nights).
Hands down, hand-washing is the best way to prevent the spread of any infection. Wash your baby’s hands often, especially after coming in from outside and before eating. Once she’s a toddler, teach her hand-washing basics, especially after she’s potty trained. Can’t get to a sink? Hand-sanitizing gels and wipes will also help prevent colds in children.
Easier said than done, of course — babies (and toddlers) gum or chew whatever they can get their hands on, especially if they’re teething. But to avoid giving germs a free pass into your baby’s body (especially when someone else in the house is sick), swipe her hands with a wipe regularly. That way, the hands she’s sucking on are clean (or at least, clean enough).
Look for yogurt brands with “live, active cultures” — they contain probiotics, which can help prevent colds in children. Or ask your pediatrician to recommend a probiotic supplement (make sure it’s one designed for kids). Studies show that kids who take probiotics may have fewer cold and flu symptoms than those who don’t.
Kids may be bad at sharing toys, but they’re pros when it comes to swapping germs. Don’t let your baby use anyone else’s utensils, plates, cups, bottles or pacifiers — and don’t let anyone commandeer hers.
And when your baby is a toddler, teach her to do the same. This way, you can prevent colds and other viruses from lingering and spreading.
You can’t avoid all germs (remember, some germs do your baby’s body good), but you can help prevent colds in children by disinfecting the playroom, bathroom, changing table and kitchen regularly. Use disinfectant wipes and sprays for surfaces, toys, and hard-to-reach nooks. Wash towels and bed sheets once a week, and give those plush toys an occasional spin in the washing machine, too.
Experts recommend immunizing all children and adolescents 0-18 years of age unless contraindicated.
Follow these tips, and you may be able to prevent some of your baby’s illnesses and infections. In the meantime, here’s to your child’s quick recovery!