It’s a fact of life that kids and germs go hand in hand. And kids who are enrolled in child care are exposed to other kids, which of course, potentially means even more germs. But does that mean that kids who go to child care get sick more often? The answer is yes . . . and then maybe not.

As it turns out, exposure to common illnesses like colds or stomach flu in child care may help some kids boost their immune systems. According to the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP), most infants in child care have eight to 12 colds a year, more than those who aren’t in daycare. But here’s the interesting thing. After the first year in child care, the number of respiratory illnesses decreases. By the second or third year, kids in child care experience an average of four colds a year.

“For most parents, even one cold or stomach flu is too many,” said Jennifer Tidroski, DO, Pediatrician at Ponderosa Pediatrics in Prescott. “For families with multiple children, this can mean weeks of illness.”

According to Dr. Tidroski, whether your young one attends child care, pre-school or plays in the park with neighbor kids, there are steps that can help reduce the chance of illness.

  • Build immunity – A diet high in fruits, vegetables and iron-rich foods can fortify your child’s immune system. Look for healthy, easy-to-prepare recipes on Yavapai Regional Medical Center’s (YRMC’s) Your Healthy Kitchen.
  • Teach handwashing – Scrubbing with soap for 15-20 seconds is the key to effective handwashing. Dr. Tidroski’s recommendation? “Sing the happy birthday song with your children while they wash their hands. It’s a good way to help them wash longer and it’s fun.” Explore the ScrubClub with your children. This interactive site – sponsored in part by the American Red Cross – uses fun to encourage handwashing.
  • Get active – Regular, moderate exercise can reduce the number of colds your child catches over the course of a year. “You can tell your children that exercise is the body’s super hero because it releases infection-fighting cells,” said Dr. Tidroski.
  • Early to bed – Lack of sleep increases your child’s risk of catching a cold. Babies need about 14 hours of sleep a day while preschoolers require 11-13 hours.
  • No sharing – Some items – cups, straws and toothbrushes, for example – are not meant to be shared. Also, because cold and flu viruses enter the body through the nose, eyes, and mouth, it’s important to remind your children to keep their hands away from those areas.
  • Get the flu vaccine – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months and older. Ask your doctor about the best time to get your little ones vaccinated.
  • Ask questions – Parents should ask about hygiene practices at child care centers. Does the staff sanitize toys? Are all door and cabinet handles, drinking fountains, bathroom surfaces and changing tables cleaned and disinfected regularly? Does the staff encourage the children to wash their hands throughout the day?

Despite your best efforts, your child will likely come down with a cold or flu from time to time. Don’t hesitate to ask your child’s doctor if you have any questions. If your child does not currently have a doctor, contact Ponderosa Pediatrics in Prescott at (928) 778-4581 or visit Ponderosa Pediatrics for more information.