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Daycare makes my daughter sick!
Q: My 2-year-old daughter started childcare a few months ago, and it seems like she’s been sick with one illness after another: first a cold, then an ear infection, then pink eye and now diarrhea. Will it ever end?
Sanjeev Fremont
A: Sanjeev, your daughter’s illnesses since starting childcare are very typical. There are certainly many positive things about childcare, as it allows parents to return to work and it provides opportunities to stimulate children’s development. But the increased number of illnesses can be distressing.

Many research studies have shown that children in childcare tend to get sick more often with illnesses such as colds, ear infections and diarrhea. They are also more likely to be prescoted antibiotics. Children who enter childcare as infants and who are cared for in larger childcare centres are most likely to get sick.

However, there is news that might console you. Although children get sick more in their first year of child care, they subsequently develop immunity to many of the illnesses, and they tend to be healthier in kindergarten and elementary school than children who were cared for at home.

And there’s even more possible consolation. Other studies suggest that when young children are raised in ultra-hygienic conditions, their immune systems may not be stimulated enough by germs and they may develop overactive or damaging immune responses. By that reasoning, childcare attendance may make children less susceptible to certain medical conditions. Some studies have shown that children in childcare have a lower risk for seasonal allergy and hay fever, asthma diagnosed between 3 and 4 years of age, Type 1 diabetes and childhood leukemia.

Be sure to have a backup plan for the frequent illnesses this year, but trust that your daughter is likely to be healthier in the years to come.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician