Day Care and Illness

Updated on November 15, 2010
M.D. asks from Austin, TX
23 answers

Hi everyone, my son started day care about 2 and a half months ago when he was 13 months old. Prior to this he was at home. Before he started day care he was only sick once or twice but nothing major. Since starting day care he has basically been sick off and on the whole time. My doctor has had to put him on antibiotics three times so far, which I hate. It seems that he will get better with them for about a week and then it all starts over again. I really don't want him on anymore antibiotics either because I am afraid he will start to build an immunity to them. I was just wondering if anyone else has had this experience or if it is possible that I should look into other day cares? I have had some small issues with this one anyway and this is just adding to it. Thanks in advance for all of your help!

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So What Happened?

Thanks for all of your answers! I forgot to mention that I am a vegetarian and while I do feed my son some meat, it is very limited. We try to give him protein from other sources and he eats lots of fruits and vegetables. I am really hoping that helps in the long run. I kind of figured that this was just something we would have to go through but it has seemed excessive. At least I know that it is pretty normal. I appreciate the responses!

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answers from Boston on

If you don't like the daycare switch, but, as the other posters have noted, he'll get sick where ever you put him. It's a bummer, but it happens almost every time.

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answers from Kansas City on

They could all be OCD and bleaching everything in sight every minute, even ignoring the kids to do that, and your son would still be exposed to germs. Kids sneeze, grown ups do too. Not to mention, you go to work and bring home germs, touch things in the grocery store etc. It's one thing to stay home and keep the baby away from the world. But one daycare vs another isn't going to be better or worse unless, you choose a smaller in-home daycare. That's not to say that we don't have illnesses. But we have them less than a daycare with 100 kids.

The bottom line is, your son needs to build up an immunity. Fevers are there to help the body fight the illness. It's up to you to wait a few extra days and try and let him fight off the viruses. But if you want him better quickly so you can go right back to work, then you will just have to deal with this. It's a normal part of growing up. Even if you could keep him home until he's 5, he'd start this whole sickness process when he starts school.

What are you going to do? Let's say for a minute you go to a lady that keeps 4 children. They each have 2 parents that each go to various jobs. Some of them have older siblings that go to big schools with hundreds of students. Each of the other children go to grandmothers and cousins on the weekends. All of the families go to playgrounds nights and weekends. Do you see what I mean? Even the smallest daycare is getting exposed to germs on exponential levels.

If you can get your son to drink a lot of very watered down juices, chew on chewable vitamin c's, eat soup with lots of garlic in it, and limit your night and weekend outings, you'll help him to fight these viruses. The more vegetables he'll eat the better.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Buffalo on

If you are not happy then switch; however, most kids when they first start daycare are exposed to germs that are not in your home so they do get sick. your child will build up their immune system the more he is exposed to, and annoying as it is, but better be sick alot now then when in school. I am not sure what he keeps comming down with and if antibiotics are reeally needed for these colds or if your doctor is one of those to give meds for everything.

Sorry this does not really answer the question but food for thought.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boise on

If you aren't happy with the daycare then switch. As for the illnesses, that is to be expected if he didn't have this type of exposure before, and the time of year it is. My last day care had a lot of illnesses, the current doesn't have as many, but illnesses will come and go. Just got through with pink eye and bronchiolitis. There was also hand food and mouth earlier. If your gut says to switch, then do so, but your child will still get sick. Everyone puts everything in their mouths and they are touching and grabbing everything at that age.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

Our son missed about 1/3 of the time at daycare the first few months he started when he was two. There's a silver lining to all of this. Once your child gets through this rough phase, he's going to have a rock-solid immune system. Knock on wood, I can't even recall the last time our son was sick. We're talking years. If your child wasn't going through this now, he would when he started preschool or kindergarten. As soon as young kids get exposed to other young kids, they start catching every bug going around.

I second the others in that just because your child gets sick frequently, doesn't mean it's a poorly run daycare. Kids spread germs so easily and no amount of cleaning is going to keep up with them doing it.

As far as antiobiotics, I would really make sure they're essential. If not, skip them so they will work in the future for more serious needs. You can always decline a doctor's requested treatment and ask for alternatives.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

thats just daycare for you. i went through the same thing with my son and it took him a few months for him to adjust and stop getting sick so often. we had a nice long stretch of noone getting sick adn then last weekend we all got the stomach flu b/c it was going around his daycare :(

that being said, make sure that your daycare has a good sick policy (i.e. if the kids are sick, send them home instead of letting them come to school and getting everyone else sick). they prob already have this policy but check just in case.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

M. - I can totally empathize with you on this. My son started daycare at 8 months and now he is 10 months and has been on antibiotics twice. The first time it was more of a precaution since his doc couldn't conclude if it was an ear infection. The second time was definitely an ear infection.

This happens to almost every child and mine is breast fed too but almost all parents that have kids in the daycare say that this is very typical and it feels like they are constantly sick for the first year or so and then they slowly build up that immunity and once they get to kindergarten they are hardly ever sick. I have heard this so many times so I am hopeful.
I hate that he needs to get on antibiotics but antibiotics will help them to get better a bit quicker. You don't have to give your child antibiotics for every ear infection if you are okay with a slower healing process.
Frequent ear infections warrant putting tubes on kids and I hope I don't have to get to that point and the fact that my child is breast fed will help in that regard.
You should switch daycare if there are any red flags and your gut is telling you something is wrong but switching daycare, in my opinion, is not going to make the illnesses go away.
You too will build that immunity along with him and soon you will be one of those moms who hardly ever get sick.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on


My 2 years old son is going through the same. Two months ago he started a pre-school for 2 days out of a week for 4 hours each. Since then he has been sick 4 times. That's a lot. Before that, he had cold 2x in two years. I am feeling bad about it too. However, as bad as it is, I am being told that it is going to help him build his immune system. I totally understand what you are going through. Please hang in there, it will get better. It has to, because that is what I am looking forward too.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Hi M.-

Part of what your son is experiencing is the fact that he's in a new environment and around other little kids with germs and runny noses.

My suggestion is to keep a food journal for both daycare and home.

My son went through something similar at 11m. He started developing high fevers, congestion, ear infections, etc. I would be home from work for 4 days at a time, he'd gone on a medicine, get better, then 4 days later it would start again. After many trips to the dr. and ER, I had the routine down pat. I knew the symptoms, knew when what was coming. Finally after about a year of this one night he broke out in hives. Hives = allergy!

I started keeping a food journal, and when I had enough evidence of what I thought was the cause I went to the allergist (hubby thought I was nuts!!). Turns out he had developed an allergy to pears! He'd eaten pears since 6m and his daycare offered pears for lunch every other Wed! As soon as we removed that food and juice from his diet, he was a different child. He's now 9y and maybe gets one ear infection or case of strep a year. Although last year he did have swine flu, but that was different.

My co-worker's son was going through the same thing. I told her my story. She started a food journal. Turns out the daycare was offering a food that he was allergic to. She began sending his meals and he got better.

Hope this helps and he feels better soon.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

of course he didn't get sick that much before daycare because he was not exposed to it. It will happen even if you put him in a different daycare. I would like to know what your doctor is treating with antibiotics for there is no reason to treat every sniffle with antibiotics if he is getting ear or sinus infections it is possible that they are just not clearing with the antibiotic your doctor is prescribing and that your son needs something stronger.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Little ones unfortunately sneeze, snort, snot and cough all over everything and each other so it seemed to me that the baby room and the toddler room always had the brunt of the illnesses EVEN THOUGH the place we were at did clean everything down with bleach water 2 times a day (when kids were outside or in gym playing and at the end of the day -- so not ignoring them to do it). The baby toys soaked in bleach water as the kids were done with them and were circulated. My son at 6 mos (he started at 3 mos when I returned to work) still ended up in the hospital with a virus that took ahold of his lungs violently for 3 days and my daughter got pink eye in her very first week (she was 19 mos). It happens. Make sure your doc is not putting him on antibiotics when it isn't necessary (like a cold). Unless he tests positive for strep, has pneumonia, has an obvious oozing sinus infection or a violent inner ear infection, he probably doesn't need an antibiotic. My kids have only been on them for pneumonia (DD once) and ear infections (DD consistently for 45 days with 5 different antibiotics at 10 mos till they put tubes in and DS 1 time) -- my kids are 2 and 3 now. I took them out of daycare and got an au pair through Cultural Care because I was sick of the illness....if you had more than 1 kid, I would suggest that -- it is WAY cheaper than 2 kids in daycare around here, more convenient, and very very flexible.

Best of luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Myabe you should switch him to a home daycare. I watch children in my home and the kids rarely get sick. There are so many kids at a daycare center, so everyday your child is probably coming in contact with a child that has a cold or is sick. Try to find a mom in your area that watches kids in her home.


answers from Minneapolis on

Building our immunity can be a tedious process but ultimately it is a good thing. Better now than at Kindergarten. As you probably know, the best defence against most of it is hand-washing hand-washing hand-washing. Kinda a hard habit to teach a 1 yr old. = )

Take comfort in the fact that after this winter, the colds and runny noses and ear infections will taper off and will almost disappear in a couple years. Your son will be super-immunity-boy when he starts school...And that is when missing days due to being sick starts to matter.

Ours are 5 and 9...And it is such a relief to be out of the sniffle years. Because not only are they sick. Those little germ sponges bring it home and give it to you. I am now finally back to my pre-children healthy status! ; )



answers from Victoria on

definatly switch dc. my son is almost three and started dc around six months aside from the ear infections he has been sick three times. and i am not sure they were all from dc. it seems like smaller dc have less sicky germs around. good luck. hope your little one feels better soon.


answers from Dover on

Your son is now exposed to more kids, more adults, and more germs. It is natural for him to be sick as he is just now building his immunity to these germs up. Sounds like the first antibotic didn't clear it completely up and since there was probably a gap in them it hit him again before the next round started. This alone is not reason to swith daycares. The same kinds of things happen in schools.

If there are other issues, you should address those.



answers from Sacramento on

HI M.,

I didn't read all of the responses, I just wanted to offer that as hard it is to have him sick all the time now, it will pay off later. And whether now or later, he'll probably get sick as much in this daycare as he would anyplace else. It's his first dip in the germ pool and he's gonna get whatever come in.

As hard as we try in daycare germs are just part of it. Kids have their hands in their noses and mouths, drool with teething, put toys in their mouths, cough and sneeze without covering etc... It's impossible (and not efficient or healthy) to try to completely prevent cold and flus.

The good news is that by the time your child starts kindergarten, when you don't want them sick because they miss important information, your son probably won't be. My son and daughter occasionally get a little bug, but what takes other kids a week or two to recover from, mine have a stuffy nose for a day or two and bounce right back.

So expect that it's normal for your little guy to get sick about once a month with a cold and have 2-3 other viruses through his first cold/flu season. It gets better after that. Good luck!!

PS... I wouldn't switch daycares if this is your primary concern... I don't know that the other issues are. You can message me if you have questions though. I have been on both sides of daycare... having my own kids in care prior to opening my home large family daycare. I'd be happy to give advice if you need it.)


answers from Minneapolis on

Every daycare (home or center) and the region you live in, will be different and what is normal for its climate changes and such. I live in MN and do home childcare. Kids get sick and it goes in spurts. When people ask what I do for a living, I say "I run a germ farm!"..LOL...

But, as much of a germ-o-phobe as I am personally..washing my hands and brushing my teeth with a near obsessive attitude, kids really don't get sick that much around here. If something significant is going around, it does just goes around. I use my share of Lysol..door knobs, rails, drawer pulls... its a Great friend of mine! I use alot of Clorox wipes..again for their ease (altho not approved as a bleach cleaning substitute by my counties standards). And I clean and bleach toys regularly and wash bedding at least once a week.

Kids will build an immunity over time. Feed them healthy foods..lots of rest and appropriate activity, blah blah blah. I am sure you are doing all of the right things. Please don't medicate unless it IS something. Ear infections are NOT contagious...but the illness that contributes to them (sniffles or cold symptoms) can be. You can't rush an illness or common cold sort of thing. As inconvenient as a child's illness is for parents, it is in everyones best interest to have them kept out of the group until they are recovered enough to participate in normal group activities. Have a good back up plan..Grandma, Auntie, Uncle, etc. Have some plans in place. Your child may seem OK to you, but the group dynamic might not be something they are quite up for and another day of laying around and short naps and resting might be best.

Good luck!



answers from Milwaukee on

I feel your pain.
My son started preschool in August and we are on round 6 of antib's since then.

Here is one thing I found out--yes, kids are supposed to get sick an average of 11 times in the first year of being in school/daycare, whatever. BUT mostly it should be a run of the mill cold type thing. My son never gets a cold he ALWAYS gets a sinus infection.

Ends up my son has bad allergies-we have since been to an allergist and had him diagnosed with lots of fun allergies like grass...:) easy to avoid that!..My ped said that once it got colder and we had a good frost if he got sick again we need to see an ENT. Well, he's sick again so we are going to an ENT in December.

Our allergist made a point of saying that a lot of kids who are sick so often in daycare may have allergies cuz in his opinion gets shouldn't get sick that often even if they are in a new germy environment-for whatever that is worth.

Good luck.



answers from Houston on

If you already have small issues with this one you might look around and see if there are other day cares that you like better; however, do be aware that when a lot of children first start day cares they are sick quite a bit. They aren't used to all of the germs and illnesses that other children have and it seems like they get them all. Then they build up a resistance and don't get sick quite as often. I saw it with both my kids when I had them in their montessori school (and we LOVED the school). I think maybe it is something they have to go through in order to get some of the antibodies built up. But if you are not comfortable at the day care ceratinly looking in to something else can't hurt.



answers from New York on

I am with McMama. My daughter was sick on and off the first year but then it tapered off dramatically. Unfortunately, I was sick a lot, too. And I get her germs now more than she does. In act, I am now finding that after 2.5 years of day care and preschool that she is rarely sick (like my hubby).

Hang in there, wash hands a lot and be sure to use lice prevention spray in her hair. :)


answers from St. Louis on

Oh yah - my daughter was sick off and on the first year at daycare (she didn't start until she was a year old). It seemed like she was always sick!! My son hasn't been as sick but he's been in daycare since he was 9 weeks old. As long as they are being careful and making sure to have healthy habits (hand washing, disenfecting the toys/etc) he should be fine!



answers from Detroit on

Hi M.---Babies are born with limited immunities. They must be exposed to bugs in order to each the immune system how to fight it. Once exposed, it will forever remember that bug or virus and reduce the risk of actual infection.

We can't be hermits, trying to avoid catching colds or flu. It's going to happen BUT there are many things we can do to support our immune system. The first and best way to do that is through an optimal diet. Eating mostly fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, legumes/beans, nuts and seeds while minimizing animal protein does the job. I would have to say to eliminate dairy, which causes lots of immune system problems, the least of which is producing excess mucous. Please visit and put dairy in the search box.

I am taking a series of classes taught by a Naturopath who has her PhD in Nutrition. I have a bunch of great info I can share, one happens to be serving size charts for kids of different ages. The U of Michigan dept of Integrative Medicine suggests that we eat in excess of 10 servings every day in order to reduce our risk of disease to the lowest levels possible. Eating adequate plant based foods also strengthens the immune system, reducing the frequency, duration and severity of colds.

Yes, it is hard to eat that much high quality plant based material. It takes dedication and intention. But there is a way to get more plant based nutrients into the body quite easily. I can tell you what we do...and it is backed by numerous independent research studies, one most recently on colds, actually. It would be my honor to help if you want to learn more.

As for the daycare, sit down and ask them what sort of cleaning procedures they use and how do they seperate the kids, to the best of their abilities, if one of them is sick. It's hard for the daycare, as usually people are contagious before they show symptoms. Good luck...let me know how I can help. In health. D.



answers from Austin on

Your situation is very common. My LO started when she was 13 months too and not only was she sick all the time... but she got her Daddy sick too. I blame it on the fact that he was homeschooled and wasn't exposed to those early viruses and such as I didn't get sick at all =)

My LO was sick at least once a month the first year. This year she's only been sick 3 times. I am surprised that your doctor has had him on antibiotics so many times. Our Ped only suggested antibiotics once (when she had an ear infection) but said that her body would recover on it's own given time so we gave her that time. All the other sicknesses were from a virus and of course antibiotics do nothing for those.

I asked my mother about it and she said I was sick a lot the first year that I started school - it's just exposure is much higher of course. I, of course, would rather be exposed as much as possible to work my immune system. A doctor friend of mine mentioned it's actually good to get sick once a year or so to keep your immune system in prime shape =)

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