Three Simple Steps to Reduce Sickness for Children

Philip Weiss, M.D.

Is there a worse experience as a parent than having a sick child? From their meek coughs to the perpetually runny noses, every part of a sick day is a bummer. I don’t even need to mention how much of a battle it is to get them to sip a few milligrams of icky medicine.

At work, I come across parents ranging from indifferent to hysterical when they bring their little ones in for a sick visit. They’ll frequently ask me what they did wrong to allow this illness to happen.  Is it from letting them play outside in the cold for too long? (“Should I have given them a beanie AND earmuffs?”) Is it from feeding them processed chicken nuggets? (“I knew we shouldn’t have stopped at McDonald’s!”) The answer to most of these hypotheses is no.

The unfortunate reality is that everybody gets sick at some point, no matter how mindful you are. So, what is it that causes kids to get sick? The answer often surprises parents. It’s not from being in the cold or from playing in the dirt; kids get sick from being around other kids! Any time a child is exposed to a new environment, they are being exposed to an entirely new collection of germs.

What this does NOT mean is to keep your young child isolated from other kids.  This is the last thing you want to do because they need the opportunity to build their immune system. The more a kid is exposed to other kids and their germs, the stronger his or her immune system becomes from having to combat these new unfamiliar elements. When you get sick, you are further strengthening your immune system, which will reduce the severity of future illnesses.

There’s no way to avoid getting sick. However, here are three simple steps that you can take to reduce how often you’ve got a sick child on your hands:

  1. Feed your child a well-balanced diet full of a wide array of nutrients. Breastfeeding helps strengthen the immune system, but it is not a 100% guarantee of protection.
  2. Ensure that they get as much rest as possible. The National Sleep Foundation recommends at least 10-12 hours per day for children ages 6 and younger.
  3. Finally, if all else fails never hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician or other medical specialist if your child does get sick. The sooner you treat them, the sooner they’ll recover with a strengthened immune system.

In conclusion, having a sick child is never fun (possibly the understatement of the year!) Kids primarily get sick from exposure to other kids, which is a completely natural part of socialization and should not be actively avoided. While you can’t prevent your child from getting sick, you can take steps to build up their immune system and allow them to recover more quickly and be less susceptible to future illness. Because, let’s face it, being a parent is already hard enough – no need to complicate things with a sick child!

Philip Weiss, M.D.
Dr. Weiss attended college at the University of Michigan. He obtained his medical degree and did his residency at Emory University. He is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a Fellow with the American Academy of Pediatrics and a member of the Medical Association of Georgia. He has been with North Atlanta Pediatric Associates since 1996. Dr. Weiss is married and has two adult children named Jamie and Joey. He enjoys spending time with his family, gardening, cooking, and swimming. Please note: Joey Weiss acts as ghostwriter for these articles.

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