Before starting nursery, it’s unlikely your child will have been exposed to many different germs. So, when placed in a new environment with lots of other children, it’s almost inevitable they will catch something. (Perhaps not the answer you expected when researching how to keep your children healthy). However, exposure to new germs is essential when developing a strong and healthy immune system! Think of it this way – no infection, no immunity.
So, the question is how to keep your children healthy (or as healthy as possible) when it’s likely they’ll be exposed to some sort of bug/virus/infection? To help you support your child (and their immune system), we’ve outlined what you should expect from ‘daycare diseases’, why early exposure can benefit your child in the long run and what steps you can take to help keep your children healthy.
What to expect
Within their first few months of nursery, most children will catch (at least) a couple of infections. While unpleasant, this shouldn’t be cause for panic. As the saying goes – ‘it’s better the devil you know.’
The most common illnesses you should look out for are:
- Colds, ear infections and other upper respiratory infections
- Mild fevers
- Sickness and diarrhoea (gastroenteritis)
- Hand, foot and mouth disease
But why does this happen?
The reason so many children fall sick at nursery is because they have an immature immune system. This just means they haven’t been exposed to many different germs yet. Despite nursery staff’s best efforts, children will inevitably share toys, get dirty and continue putting their hands in their mouths. So when faced with new, contagious illnesses, their immune systems are bound to have a shock.
Shouldn’t I just keep my child at home?
Whilst this may seem like the logical solution, in reality, it’s only delaying the inevitable. We can’t protect our children from germs forever, so it’s only a matter of when. By tackling this phase now, your children can begin developing their immune systems in preparation for school. In comparison, children who don’t attend nursery are usually far more sickly in their early school years.
How to keep your children healthy
Unfortunately, we can’t prevent every virus, bug and infection – it just isn’t realistic. However, there are some healthy habits you can adopt to help support your child’s immune system.
1. Encourage handwashing
We’ve heard a lot about handwashing over the past year – and rightly so. Encouraging your child to wash their hands regularly will significantly reduce their risk of contamination. Promote handwashing before meals, after being outside or in a public place and, of course, after using the toilet.
2. Maintain a healthy, balanced diet
Good nutrition is a simple but effective way to support your child’s immune system. Having a varied diet full of vitamins and minerals, paired with the essential macro-nutrients (proteins, carbs and fats), will ensure your child’s immune system is working at its best.
3. Discourage thumb-sucking
Breaking a habit is hard – it’s even harder for our children. But when it comes to thumb-sucking, it’s necessary. Sucking thumbs and sharing toys provides a golden ticket opportunity for bugs and viruses.
4. Change after nursery
Changing your child’s clothes after nursery, particularly during cold and flu season, is a simple way to prevent spreading the virus in your home.
5. Stay up to date with their vaccinations
Vaccinations won’t prevent common viruses, but they will protect your children from more severe illnesses like pneumonia and meningitis. With flu season coming up, now’s the time to book in for your yearly boosters.
Although they won’t stop your child from getting sick altogether, these steps can help reduce their risk of contamination.
Despite our best efforts, our children will fall ill at some point or other – and that’s okay! Getting sick is an essential part of developing a strong and healthy immune system. Just be patient, implement these tips wherever you can and know that, like all storms, this too shall pass.
Looking for more ideas and inspiration? See more from us here:
- What are the Benefits of Sending Your Child to Nursery?
- 7 Common Nursery Worries and How to Overcome Them
- 12 Questions You Need to Ask Your Nursery
- How to Choose the Best Educational Toys: the Ultimate Guide for Parents