My child is always sick! How often is normal?

No one likes seeing their child ill. Whether it’s a simple cold or something more serious, it can be a worrying and stressful experience – especially if there is nothing you can do to make them feel better. Thankfully, for most of us this doesn’t happen too often and with all the resilience that children have they tend to bounce back pretty quickly. But what about the children that don’t? The children who seem to get ill a little too often and seem to struggle to get better? How do you deal with a child who seems to get ill frequently?

How Often Do Children Get ill?

The single most common illness among children are colds. Some children seem to always have the sniffles – as soon as they get over one, they come down with another. After a while, you might start to worry that something is wrong with their immune system. The truth is, though, children start to get colds from around six months old, when the immunity they receive from their mother fades and they have to build up their own immune system to defend themselves.

The average baby, toddler and child can get around 7 to 8 colds every year, at any time of year, not just in winter. By the time they reach school age that should reduce to around 5 to 6 times a year and when they become teenagers they reach the adult level of around 4 colds a year. As well as colds, children get a lot of diarrhoea-type illnesses (with and without vomiting) and tummy bugs, which they tend to get around 2 to 3 times a year. Some children will be more susceptible to high fevers when they get a cold, or others might have a particularly sensitive tummy, and develop diarrhoea symptoms easily.

Why Do Children Get Ill So Often?

7 to 8 colds a year seems awfully high, doesn’t it? Why do children get ill so often?

Well, the main reason children pick up infections and viruses so easily is because they are being exposed to new viruses all the time. Every new person they meet, place they go and thing they touch will expose them to new viruses, no matter how much you clean. There are over 200 different recorded cold viruses alone, and they mutate all the time, so it’s tricky to avoid them!

On top of that, your child’s body hasn’t built up the same immune defences that your adult body has. They retain some of their mothers’ immunity for the first 6 months of life, but after that, their immune system needs to develop – part of which is coming into contact with viruses and learning how to fight them off. As they are exposed to more viruses they will build up their immunity, but it takes time. As they enter nursery or school, they will start picking up more bugs, germs and viruses so it can sometimes feel they are ill all the time with one thing or another, from colds to infections or tummy bugs.

How Often Is Too Often?

That’s a difficult one to answer, because it depends on the child. Some children will always seem to be sick, while others will very rarely catch anything.

Most children will stop getting ill as frequently as they get older and their immune system develops. A child that is completely healthy but just catches a lot of colds isn’t really anything to worry about. Neither are children who seem to ‘keep a cold’ (you know the ones – they linger, the runny nose never seems to dry up). That can sometimes be caused by allergies, small sinuses or even their ear anatomy, which can make it difficult for the mucus to clear out completely. This will often turn into respiratory infections unless you’re aggressive about clearing mucus, but it is fairly easy to handle. What to look out for is the types of illnesses your child is getting, as this can be a sign of something else.

Children who are genuinely unwell – who aren’t growing well, and suffer from a lot of other issues beyond the common childhood illnesses. Things like chronic diarrhoea, thrush, respiratory infections or unusual, hard-to-treat infections. If your child has these kinds of issues and tend to catch a lot of different, uncommon or hard to treat illnesses may need to see a doctor and be assessed for immune deficiency.

Ultimately, you know your child best, there is no substitute for a parent’s intuition. If you ever have concerns about how often your child is getting ill, it’s worth taking them for a check-up.

Although it is par for the course for children to get ill occasionally, it can be really exhausting for parents, especially if children are waking up in the night with fever or because they are in pain.  Trying to remember when the last dose of medicine was given and if it is safe to give another dose can be difficult when parents are exhausted and half asleep.

The Medi-Redi storage timer enables parents to keep their children’s medicines and spoons etc. together safely in one place. If your child wakes up in the middle of the night with a simple glance at your Medi-Redi timer you will know immediately whether or not it is safe to give them more medicine, which medicine you need to give them and the dose – treating children when they’re ill has never been easier!

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