Dr Sophie Niedermaier MD, consultant paediatrician at Richmond Practice, addresses why toddlers seem to get persistently ill from nursery
Starting nursery brings a lot of exciting development for parents and their children. Unfortunately, there is also a downside, as children do get recurrent infections, and parents can catch their illnesses too! This could easily happen without there being an underlying immune system deficiency.
Twelve to 14 episodes of acute infection (upper respiratory tract infection, middle ear infection, diarrhoea and vomiting) in one year are considered normal. First-born children are often more prone to infections and international families can also experience additional problems. Infants will enjoy immunity from antibodies transferred from their mother, but this protection slowly subsides towards the end of the first year of life. The upside is that frequent infections train the immune system and make it stronger to tackle viruses and bacteria once a child grows up. Recurrent infections are a normal step in your child’s development.
Strategies to prevent illnesses:
• Get your child vaccinated according to the recommended schedule.
• Ensure your child gets enough fresh air.
• A healthy balanced diet can help. Vitamin A and C as well as iron, zinc and folate are particularly important, and vitamin D during the winter months.
• An adequate amount of sleep supports immunity. Children aged one to three years usually need 11 to 12 hours, from ages four to six, 10 to 11 hours.
• A smoke-free environment is crucial for healthy airways.
• Plan ahead to allow enough time free to support your child when they start nursery.
Remember, allergies can mimic or aggravate respiratory symptoms such as coughs and difficulty breathing. A doctor can help you diagnose whether an allergy is the cause of the problem and how to treat it.