Some parents hesitate to send their kids to day care for fear they’ll catch more childhood infections. Research should put their minds at ease. According to a study discussed in Family Practice News, kids who go to large day care centers are no more sickly overall than kids who stay at home.
Do kids who go to day care centers get sick more often?
Researchers in Quebec looked at data on over 1,200 kids enrolled in the Quebec Longitudinal Study of Child Development. They found that kids who entered a large day care program before the age of 2½ had more ear and respiratory infections when they first enrolled in the program, but they went on to have fewer childhood infections by the time they entered grade school – even less than kids who stayed at home. This was true even when researchers controlled for other variables such as lifestyle factors, birth weight and family size that could affect the number of childhood infections.
Childhood infections and day care
Kids who go to day care programs initially have more respiratory and ear infections, but they develop immunity after a few months that reduce their risk of childhood infections – even after they graduate from day care and enter school.
It seems the exposure to lots of other kids helps them build a stronger immune system to help fight off childhood illnesses later. In this study, this held true only for kids enrolled in large day care centers where they were exposed to lots of other children. Researchers didn’t see the same benefits in kids enrolled in small day care centers.
What does this mean?
Parents can be reassured when their kids come home from day care with the sniffles that it’s a short-term thing, and they’ll most likely be more resistant to childhood illnesses once they enter school. Sending kids to day care has other health benefits as well. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, children who go to day care have a lower risk of asthma. And then there’s the socialization and intellectual stimulation they get in a quality day care center, which has benefits too.
The bottom line
Kids who go to day care may initially have more ear and respiratory infections, but being in close contact with other children helps build a stronger immune system that will work in their favor when they enter school – and that’s good news for kids and parents alike.