When you should be concerned…
The truth is, children start to get colds after about six months of age when the immunity they received from their mom fades and they have to build up their own immune system.
Pediatricians see a peak in illnesses in children from October through April. So if you’re asking yourself “why is my child always sick?” and it’s during this time, it’s likely due to a variety of reasons such as weather, more indoor activities, and viruses that thrive in the change in temperature. (Remember that the cold weather itself is not what makes us sick, but different viruses can like these temps or dry air and we’re indoors a lot more where viruses can spread).
By the numbers, it’s thought that babies, toddlers, and preschoolers get about seven to eight colds a year. And during school age, they average five to six colds a year. Teenagers finally reach an adult level of four colds a year. But, truly, I hate numbers like this as there is no numerical threshold that’s a concern, but more of a big picture.
Why is my child always getting sick?
The main reason your child is getting all those infections is that he or she is being exposed to new viruses all the time. The viruses are everywhere no matter how much you sanitize and clean. There are at least 200 different cold viruses and they’re constantly getting tricky, mutating all the time.
Your child’s body will build up defenses or immunity against these viruses when he or she is exposed to them but this takes time. It takes many years to build up immunity to viruses. Your child will be exposed to more if he or she attends daycare or preschool. Older brothers and sisters are also great vectors to bring home a virus from school. As they get older, they have better hand hygeine and immune systems that are stronger; so although they can still get sick from common viruses like us adults–it will happen less often.
Why do back-to-back illnesses happen?
Your child could be sick with one illness, look a little better and go back to childcare/school; only to come back home with another illness. This is very common and can be a source of a lot of frustration. This happens because:
1. There are many viruses circulating at any given time. So just because you have strengthening immunity to one virus, doesn’t mean you have immunity towards all of them.
2. When your immune system is down fighting one illness, it’s just more susceptive to pick up something new. Unfortunately, no magic timeline or test exists to tell you the immune system is reset. With time, your child will bounce back quicker with various illnesses.
When to be concerned that your child is always sick?
If a child is growing well and thriving developmentally, I am usually not concerned.
But, here are some reasons, we do get concerned:
- Losing weight and getting sick often
- Bacterial infections (pneumonias, sinus infections), 6 or more ear infections in a year
- Recurrent bacterial abscesses
- Recurrent thrush
- Needing repetitive IV antibiotics to clear bacterial infections
As a parent, this can be extremely frustrating and worrisome. It can feel like a never-ending cycle and all you want is for your child to be healthy and thrive in their own way. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Know that it is common and your child will have a really adapted immune system. I don’t want to use the word “strong” because they can still get sick but their immune system has seen thousand of viruses by then. So they will fight it faster or not get sick at all.