Let me start with this disclaimer: I don’t love using the term “always” and “never”. These absolutes can make things stressful or make us feel guilty as parents. If your child is “always” sick, meaning your child never, ever has a healthy day or two in-between illnesses, this is a cause for concern. However, this is rarely the case.
After six months of age, babies can begin to get colds and viruses more. Their immunity they received in the womb from mom has faded and they must start building 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.
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. 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 hygiene and immune systems that are stronger. So, although they can still get sick from common viruses like us adults, it will happen less often, or symptoms will be milder if exposed to various other strains.
Since 2021, we have been seeing many, many viruses. This was likely due to mutations in common childhood viruses during quarantine (early 2020) making them more contagious and persistent in seasons they’re not normally common (such as flu in May and RSV in summer).
When to be concerned?
If a child is growing well and thriving developmentally regardless of these illnesses, we, as pediatricians, are not concerned.
But, here are some reasons we do get concerned with repetitive illness:
- Losing weight and getting sick often
- There is no bounce-back. Your child is sick and is just never recovering from that illness.
- 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
- Fever that is recurrent in a rhythm without symptoms. They get fever (and nothing else) for 3-5 days and again in 3-4 weeks (on the clock). If it’s a fever with a runny nose or cough, this is likely a coincidence. But if it’s fever and a sore throat, sores in the mouth and really nothing else, we should evaluate.
As a parent, I know feeling your child is constantly sick can feel like a never-ending cycle and all you want is for your child to be healthy and thrive in their own way. Know that it is common, and your child will have a really adapted immune system.
Presented by Pediatric Associates