You’ve probably heard that children who attend daycare get sick more frequently, but according to Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality healthcare, there is a silver lining to sniffles and colds.
“Exposing your child to more children at a young age helps your child develop better immunity,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.
“A baby’s immune system is immature at birth. Your baby does have some natural immunity, thanks to antibodies they were exposed to in utero. Breastfed babies benefit from antibodies in their mother’s milk as well. However, when a baby is exposed to bacteria and viruses in the environment, its immune system begins to strengthen. Yes, these pathogens can sometimes make your baby sick, but they also stimulate the production of natural antibodies, allowing them to fight off infections more effectively in the future. That means that children exposed to more germs at a young age will have stronger immune systems by the time they start school.”
What Research Suggests
The idea that children in daycare get sick more frequently when they’re young but benefit from improved immunity later in life isn’t just a theory; there’s plenty of research to back it up.
For example, a Canadian study published in JAMA Pediatrics found that children who began group child care before the age of two and a half had fewer respiratory and ear infections between the ages of five and eight than those who had not been in daycare.
According to University of Arizona College of Medicine researchers, the protection may last even longer. Children who had attended daycare as toddlers had fewer colds up to the age of 13 in their study.
Researchers discovered that children predisposed to the condition due to their mothers’ asthma or allergies had lower IgE antibodies (an indicator of allergic sensitivity) when they attended daycare. Interestingly, there is also a link between group care and a lower risk of leukaemia, although the reason for this is unclear.
Good to know: Despite these benefits, parents may want to wait until their child is three months old before enrolling in daycare. Contagious infections that are normally minor in adults can be much more serious in newborns, and your child may need to be hospitalised if they develop a fever of above 38 degrees Celcius or higher before the age of three months.
How To Naturally Boost Your Child’s Immune System
While research supports the hypothesis that immunity acquired in daycare protects a child from colds later in life, no parent wants their child to be sick.
As such, Affinity Health offers these top tips to boost your child’s immune system:
Probiotics aid in immune system regulation by balancing the good bacteria (flora) in the stomach. These “beneficial” microorganisms may help to reduce the risk of diarrhoea and respiratory infections. Serve your child live-cultured products like organic yoghurt and Gouda or cottage cheese.
A healthy immune system is built on a nutritious diet. Ensure your child eats a healthy diet and avoid serving processed foods containing chemicals and toxins that compromise their ability to fight illness and stay healthy. If your child has food allergies or requires a special diet, consult a nutritionist or paediatrician.
Increase Their Uptake Of Vitamin C
Almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, and with so many options, adding more Vitamin C into your child’s diet is simple. Good sources of Vitamin C that most children enjoy include oranges, strawberries, blackcurrants, kiwifruit, potatoes, green peas, and tomatoes.
Encourage Your Child To Exercise
Physical activity may aid in the removal of bacteria from the lungs and airways. This may lower your child’s chances of contracting a cold, flu, or other airborne illness.
Ensure Your Child Gets Adequate Sleep
If your child is 12 or younger and gets less than 10 hours of sleep per night, or if your tween or teen gets less than eight and a half hours, they are at risk of having a weakened immune system. Make good sleeping habits a priority in your household.
Allow Your Children To Be Kids, Get Dirty Outside, And Play With Friends
Not all germs and bacteria are harmful to your child’s health. Exposing children to the everyday microbes found outside in nature – including dirt – can help a child develop a strong, healthy immune system.