We’re starting off 2014 in the throes of a lot of viral illness. This is typical for the New Year with January and February notorious months for the peak of flu, RSV and common colds. Despite these historical statistics, my patients, their parents and even my friends continue to ask, “why is everyone sick?’” and “why do my kids get sick so often, this can’t be normal?”.
One thing that continues to be true, young kids do get sick quite often during the toddler years. That means a “normal” toddler may get 7-10 viral infections in a year, with the majority of these occurring during the fall and winter months. Infants who are still being carried, “up in their parent’s arms” don’t get sick as often, but once they hit the ground crawling, I can almost guarantee a trip or two to the pediatrician for fever, cough, runny nose, and congestion. By the time a child is walking and is now 12-24 months old their “germ” load is at its peak. I lovingly call this age group “little germ”, while some parents refer to their children as “a petri dish”.
Parents will often ask me, “how do I keep my toddler from catching so many illnesses?” One way you keep your child healthy is by immunizing them against all of the diseases that you can! Vaccines continue to prevent serious disease and illnesses like meningitis, hepatitis, measles , polio......just to name a few. But vaccines don’t protect against the common cold, which is caused by so many different viruses (RSV, rhinovirus, adenovirus).
In order for your child to get “healthier” they often get sick with many viral illnesses during their toddler years. Everyone has to go through this stage/phase. There is not a short cut (like Chutes and Ladders) or detour (Game of Life) to take to bypass this phase. By the time your child is 3-4 years you will definitely notice that they don’t get sick as often, as they have walked through the valley of illness, to emerge on the other side, with antibodies in tow.
Best way to try to prevent illness at this time of year - healthy meals, a good night’s sleep, hand washing and being immunized, including the flu vaccine!!
I promise, “this too shall pass”; it does every year.