Friday, September 17, 2010

Why do kids pick up so many infectious diseases?

Doesn’t it always seem like when there is one sick kid, within a week or so, every other child around has come down with the same sickness? Or that when there is something going around, kids are the ones who are most likely to get sick?

It’s not just in your head. Kids are most likely to get infections because they have not had the chance to build up a strong immunity yet. Also, bacteria and viruses are everywhere. When children are crawling, running and exploring the world around them (and sticking icky things in their mouths), there’s a greater chance they’ll pick up germs.

Kids usually pick up infections in three ways:

• 3-2-1 contact! As all parents know, kids are little bundles of energy. Their hands tend to pick up germs while they are moving around and touching things and each other. This can lead to infections like diarrhea, pink eye and hand, foot and mouth disease.

• Drip, drop, dribble: A lot of times, kids don’t cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, shooting spittle and other droplets out into the air and onto surfaces. Infections like flu, pneumonia and the common cold are sometimes spread this way.

• Oops! It’s poop: Children are very curious, which means they get their hands into a whole lot of things they shouldn’t be touching, including some things that (a-hem) are best left in the bathroom. Infected poop that’s spread around can find its way onto someone’s mouth or face. Some illnesses spread this way are pinworms and hepatitis A.

To protect kids from infections, teach them how and when to wash their hands. It’s important for children to learn how to wash their hands when they’re young, as it’s a lesson that will stick with them as they get older. Parents and caretakers can help prevent infections by regularly cleaning toys and other things kids put in their mouths.

Children are always going to explore, touch and taste the world around them. But with a few steps, we can help make sure childhood is a time for learning and fun, not sickness.

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