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Nursery School Illnesses

Preschool children usually have 6-8 respiratory viruses per year. If they attend nursery school, they have 30% more colds. Each cold can take a couple of weeks to completely clear. That’s why young children are “congested” for what seems like months. As one viral infection is cleared, the child often picks up another. Many colds are mild, with a scratchy throat followed by a cough. The “runny nose” can turn yellow as cells and viral debris are shed. There can be some pathogens within the mucus layer, but most are coated with immunoglobin. If a child picks their nose and puts nasal mucus in another mouth, they can pass an illness to that other child. However most children have a sufficiently strong immune system to fight off such an affront without getting sick. In fact, exposure to small “innoculums” of respiratory viruses help “build up” the child’s immune system.

Nursery school does expose a child to a wide range of respiratory and intestinal illnesses, but most children are able to fight them off readily and become ‘sick’. As a rule of thumb, if a child stays home from school until they are fever free for 24 hours, that allows the other children to not be exposed to large “blasts” of a pathogen. As a child starts to improve, their mucus is loaded with antibodies, which “cover up” the pathogen, making it less ‘contagious’.

It is very important to shelter infants from nursery school illnesses. This is not practical for siblings, however, parents can keep their infants away from hand contact with their children’s friends or family members during large family get-togethers. Don’t let preschoolers touch an infant without washing their hands and try to keep the infant out of face to face “cough” contact. When a preschooler coughs, it travels their arm’s length and drop to the floor. At a large family gathering, keep the infant in a baby sling in the arms of the parents/grandparents, and not in an infant seat on the floor where all the preschoolers can come up and touch/cough on the baby.