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The Truth About Daycares

An Overview of Infectious Diseases in Daycares and Preschools

By

Updated November 06, 2008

Daycares and preschools have a horrible reputation for being “germ factories” where being sick is the rule, not the exception. As parents, we would love to avoid the sniffles, the fevers, and other discomforts associated with childhood illnesses.

However, in many households, the stay-at-home option is not really an option for both financial and personal reasons. Consequently, more and more parents now seek outside care for their kids. A big draw for daycare centers and preschools is that they provide licensed care and intellectual stimulation from trained professionals, as well as socialization skills through interaction with other children. But what about all the germs?

Find out the truth about daycare-associated infections and what causes them. Did you know there are even some health-related benefits for children who attend daycare centers and preschools? Keep reading to find out more!

Are kids who attend daycares and preschools more prone to infections?

Yes. There is a 2- to 3-fold increase in risk for respiratory infections, ear infections, and diarrheal disease. The increased risk is independent of age, race, and social class. Importantly, though, this risk also decreases significantly when appropriate diapering, hand-washing, and food-preparation equipment are used.

Why is there an increased risk for infections in daycares?

  • Behavioral Habits. Behavioral habits in daycare centers, such as close interpersonal contact with other children and a need for physical contact with adults, increases the risk of diseases that can be spread from person-to-person.
  • Lack of Personal Hygiene. Small children lack simple hygienic practices, including hand washing or not putting things in their mouths. In a daycare center, failure to heed these practices among other potentially sick children places kids at increased risk.
  • Immature Immune System. The presence of an immature immune system that defends poorly against new infections makes small children more prone to new infections to which they have not been exposed.
  • Immature Physical Development. Some children have age-related physical impairments (such as underdeveloped an Eustachian tube) that may make them more prone to ear infections. In addition, prior to potty-training, the necessity for diapers is an underlying cause for increased spread of diarrheal diseases.

What are some health benefits associated with daycares?

  • The prerequisite for a pre-admission physical examination and immunizations may enable some children to receive health care that may be inadvertently omitted by home caregivers who lack knowledge about disease prevention programs.
  • Many childcare facilities offer health education resources which can benefit the entire family.
  • Children are educated on and expected to practice proper hygiene.
  • Children who attend daycares have a lower risk of childhood leukemia and asthma.

Sources:

Sterne GG, Hinman A, Schmid S. "Potential health benefits of child day care attendance." Rev Infect Dis 1986 8:660-2.

Jonathan B. Kotch, Patricia Isbell, David J. Weber, Viet Nguyen, Eric Savage,Elizabeth Gunn, Martie Skinner, Stephen Fowlkes, Jasveer Virk and Jonnell Allen. "Hand-Washing and Diapering Equipment Reduces Disease Among Children in Out-of-Home Child Care Centers." Pediatrics 2007 120:e29-e36.

Maria M. M. Nesti,1 Moisés Goldbaum. "Infectious diseases and daycare and preschool education." J Pediatr (Rio J). 2007 83:299-312

Thomas M. Ball, Jose A. Castro-Rodriguez, Kent A. Griffith, Catharine J. Holberg, Fernando D. Martinez, and Anne L. Wright. "Siblings, Day-Care Attendance, and the Risk of Asthma and Wheezing during Childhood." New England Journal of Medicine. 2000 343:538-543.

Ma X, Buffler PA, Selvin S, Matthay KK, Wiencke JK, Wiemels JL, Reynolds P. "Daycare attendance and risk of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia." British Journal of Cancer 2002 86:1419-24.

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