Germ Factories?

Daycare centers are often pinpointed as the cause of spreading germs and illness. It always seems that the kids you see in daycare have runny noses and coughs. Does putting our children in daycare endanger their health? Would it be better to keep them at home, far from the dangers of contagion and childhood illnesses?

Working Parents

The unfortunate truth is that for a majority of households, mothers and fathers must both work to support their households and young children must therefore be sent to daycare centers. Parents can no longer afford, for the most part, to be stay-at-home parents. As a result, parents are looking for the best childcare outside the home that money can buy. They look for daycare centers in which licensed care and intellectual stimulation are provided. They will talk the talk about socialization and learning social skills through interaction with other kids. But the bottom line is that we, as parents, can't eliminate the risks of contagious illness that personal interaction brings to our children.

Kids who attend daycare have two to three times the risk for catching respiratory infections, gastrointestinal infections (diarrhea), and ear infections. This risk bears no relation to social class, race, or age. However, when firm rules are in place regarding diapering practices, hand-washing, and food preparation, the risk is significantly lowered.

Risk Factors

Here are some other risk factors to consider:

*Behavioral Factors—children tend to get up close and personal with each other during daycare hours. Also, children have a need for physical contact with the adults in their lives. All of this person-to-person contact offers an opening to opportunistic germs.

*Personal Hygiene—little kids are still learning about basic personal hygiene. A nine month-old child can't be expected not to put things in his mouth or wash his hands after touching his runny nose. Little kids and babies require vigilant adults to oversee their hygiene. A smaller staff-to-child ratio can help.

New Strains

*Immature Immune System—a child's immune system is still immature and is constantly affronted by new strains of infection. They catch every cold germ that comes by until their immune systems catch up to a certain level of germ exposure.

*Physical Development Issues—children may have a specific impairment that is outgrown with age, such as an underdeveloped Eustachian tube that might make a child more susceptible to ear infections. Also, until children are toilet-trained, there is a constant risk for the spread of diarrhea and gastrointestinal infections.

Are there any health benefits to be gained by attending a daycare center? It seems so. Statistics have shown that attending daycare lowers a child's risk for developing asthma and leukemia.