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Preventing infection

Why does my child get so many colds or other infections?

This is a common question of parents, especially if their child is in day care. It is normal for young children to have six to eight upper respiratory tract infections (i.e. colds) and two or three gastrointestinal infections (i.e. diarrhea illness) each year, especially if they are in day care.

Fortunately, as our kids gets older, their immune system will strengthen and they will build up immunity to many common infections and will get sick less often.

Young children are at high risk of catching illnesses because 1) their immune system is not at full strength yet, and 2) they are always putting their hands and other objects that come into contact with infections into their mouths.

How can infections be spread to my child?

Infections caused by viruses, bacteria, and parasites can be spread in several different ways:

  • Direct contact – occurs when a child touches someone who has the infection or touches an object that has recently been touched by someone who had the germ on their hand
  • Examples of infections that require direct contact to be contagious include:
    - scabies, lice, chickenpox, cold sores, and pinkeye
  • Respiratory transmission – occurs when respiratory droplets from an infected person’s lungs, nose or mouth are spread to a child. The droplets can spread through the air directly onto the child, or may land or be placed on another surface, which is then touched by a child. If that child then touches their eyes or mouth, they can become infected.
  • Examples of infections spread by respiratory droplets include: the common coldpertussischickenpox, pneumonia, and  flu.
  • Fecal oral transmission - occurs when a child comes into contact with stool that is infected, especially after diaper changes
  • Examples of infections spread in this way include: viral or bacterial gastroenteritis (diarrheal illness), pinworms, and hepatitis A.

What are some ways to prevent my child from getting infections?

  1. Encourage your children and care providers to practice frequent hand washing, especially after using the bathroom (including diaper changes) and before eating.
  2. Studies have shown that hand washing with soap and water removes only 75% of Rotavirus, a very common diarrheal illness, from the hands.
  3. An alcohol-containing hand rub should be used to clean stool off the hands after soap and water is used.
  4. Surfaces contaminated with stool, such as a changing table, should be cleaned with an alcohol-containing disinfectant.
  5. Wash toys and other objects and surfaces after someone with any infection touches them.
  6. Dispose of tissues after wiping or blowing your childs nose.
  7. Avoiding close contact with someone who is obviously ill.
  8. Encourage your children to cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze.
  9. Not sharing food, drinks, or eating utensils can help halt the spread of germs as well.