Little Kids In Day Care Get Sicker, But Are Healthier Over the Long Haul

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Babies, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers

sick child

Kids who go to day care get sick less in elementary school, a new study shows. Credit: Corbis

Working moms, finally, here's a study to give you fodder on the mommy battle front: Your career can actually make your kids grow up healthier.

Well, sort of.

Even though babies and tots who go to child care centers with classrooms full of sniffling, runny-nosed kids get more ear infections and colds during their preschool years than kids who stay home, they tend to get less sick in grade school, according to a new study published in the December issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

It turns out day care centers, which often get a bad rap as germ-breeding grounds, help build up your kid's immunity, BusinessWeek reports.

Researchers looked at children born in 1,238 families during 1998, and monitored the children for eight years until 2006. The kids went to either a large child care facility, which had up to 10 groups of eight to 12 children each, a small, home-based center with three to eight children or they were cared for at home, BusinessWeek says.

They compared children who were cared for at home and those who went to large day care centers before they were 2-and-a-half-years-old. The kids in the centers had higher rates of respiratory and ear infections during early preschool and the same risk of infection during late preschool, but ended up with lower rates during elementary school, the study found.

No differences in infection risk were found between children who started child care in small, home-based centers and those cared for at home.

"This study provides reassuring evidence for parents that their choices regarding child care (group size and age at enrollment) should not have a major effect on the health of their children from a long-term (eight-year) perspective, at least regarding respiratory tract infections with fever, gastrointestinal tract infections and ear infections," Sylvana M. Cote, of Ste.-Justine Hospital and the University of Montreal, tells BusinessWeek.

In fact, the researchers add, children who spend their early years in large-group child care settings "may even gain protection against infections during the elementary school years, when absenteeism carries more important consequences for school adaptation and performance," BusinessWeek reports.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.