DEAR DR.PAUL: My son 6 month old son and attending daycare. It is well known that children who attend daycare are subjected to colds and other illness. Can you tell me how I can ensure that my son maintains good health. His vaccinations are up-to date, he receives a multi-vitamin and I continue to breast-feed. Also is there something the daycare should be doing to ensure that they don’t sick as often?
DR.PAUL ANSWERS: You are right; children tend to get a lot of infections (up to 12-14/year) when first attending day care because they are constantly exposed to germs from one another. As they get older, this number decreases. Your question on what we can do to prevent infections is a common yet extremely relevant one.
First of all, immunization is very important. Proper nutrition is of course another vital element. Whether or not vitamins help prevent infections in a child who eats a well balanced diet is an area that is not clear. However, you mention he is breastfed. This is by far, the very best nutrition both from the dietary and from the infection prevention point of views. Your antibodies passed to baby in the breast milk will help protect against infections including the common “day care associated infections” like gastroenteritis and ear infections. I presume you are working, but I would encourage you continue to express your milk for use in the daycare for your baby for as long as possible.
What about the day care? THE BEST THING THAT THE DAY CARE CAN DO IS PRACTICE INFECTION CONTROL TECHNIQUES ESPECIALLY WASHING HANDS BEFORE AND AFTER ANY AND EVERY CHILD CONTACT. Here are some general tips on infection prevention:
- Children should be taught at an early age to wash their hands after any contact with their mouth or nose, especially before and after meals or snacks.
- Children should be taught to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Facial tissues should be used for runny noses and to catch sneezes. These should be immediately put into the garbage after each use.
- Avoid kissing your child on or around the mouth or face.
- Anyone who comes in close contact with someone with the flu should wash their hands before and after contact.
- Dishes and utensils should be washed in hot, soapy water or in the dishwasher.
- Children should not share pacifiers, cups, utensils, washcloths, towels or toothbrushes.
- Disposable paper cups should be used in the bathroom and kitchen.
- Disinfecting is important as certain germs can live for more than 30 minutes on doorknobs, toilet handles, and countertops, even on toys. Use a disinfectant or soap and hot water to keep these areas clean
- Children should learn at an early age to get used to the good habit of always washing their hands after going to the bathroom.
- Parents and other caregivers should always wash their hands after changing a baby’s diaper.
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Pediatrician DR.PAUL Roumeliotis is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The information provided above is designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace the advice and care of your child’s physician, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that your child has a medical condition always consult a physician.