As parents we’re always on the lookout for our kids’ health. In many populated areas, it’s not uncommon to have daycares and schools with lots of students huddled together for hours. Some parents think this can be a health problem waiting to happen. But in reality, how easily do children get sick?
Younger children get sick more often
The type of transmission and illness can determine how easily children get sick
The type of disease and the kind of contact determines what your child is more at risk for. Take a look at the bullet points below. So for example, if children are touching each other (e.g. a game of tag, high-fiving etc.) they’ll be more at risk to contract bacteria, viruses and parasites. Here is a great video to show kids about the ways they can get sick (including cross-contamination), and the importance of washing their hands.
This is because that’s how those infections are transmitted. If your kids are with other children who don’t cover their mouths when they sneeze, they’ll be more at risk for the common cold, since the cold is transmitted through the air. So take a moment and examine the information below to see if any of these scenarios apply to your children.
- Direct contact can spread infections from bacteria, viruses and parasites. Some of the examples of infections caused by this include impetigo, scabies, lice, chickenpox, cold sores, ringworm and pinkeye. The best way to prevent this from happening is by encouraging children to wash their hands often. Keep infected areas covered as well.
- Respiratory transmission is when children breathe respiratory droplets from an infected person’s lungs. Examples of this include the common cold, the flu, chickenpox and pneumonia. Keeping children at home might be a good idea to prevent these illnesses from spreading.
- Fecal oral transmission is pretty much just as it sounds. Teach your children to wash their hands thoroughly after using the washroom. If they are too young to use a restroom, take extra care when changing their diapers. The consequences can be illnesses such as diarrhea, pinworms, and hepatitis A.
- Blood transmission happens when your children come into contact with another person’s blood. Teach your children to report whenever they’ve been hurt and ask them if anyone had also drawn blood nearby. Examples include scraped knees in a soccer match (did the child you checked also get a bloody knee?), a schoolyard fight (did both of you get bloody noses?). Pay attention to the information your child gives you, and visit the doctor if you feel any cause for concern. Blood-transmitted illnesses include HIV, Hepatitis B or C, or cytomegalovirus.
Kids will be playing in the grass a lot — how easily can children get sick playing in parks or outdoors on vacation?
Kids play in tons of green space. Whatever local municipality you live in, there will probably be a park close to your home. When you’re on vacation, you may spend a lot of time in nature. That means there will be plenty of chances for your kids to play in the grass and murky waters. So how easily can children get sick when tussling in the green stuff?
Well, like most things in life, everything depends on the context. It seems how easily children get sick from playing in the grass is related to how often they’ve played in it beforehand. Kids who’ve played in grass more have tougher immune systems. So it seems like they won’t get sick as easily.
But take swimming in lakes and oceans, or even pools for example. Here is a video explaining diseases you can contract from swimming. Also rare, but real, is contacting the Amoeba disease through swimming in very warm waters (or using infected water), usually in hotter climates. No matter how small the likelihood is, parents should be aware. It never hurts to take a few minutes to check on any municipal announcements regarding lakes or swimming areas before diving in.
But there can be downsides. Lawn care chemicals can be harmful to anyone playing on the green stuff. The bottom line? Do some research about the place if you want peace of mind. Contact whichever municipality is in charge of the park to see what kind of fertilizers they use. And should you trust deet as an insect repellent? DNews explains this issue.
That brings us to the case of bug bites. This is no small issue. According to DNews, “mosquitos are considered one of the deadliest animals on earth with their ability to spread diseases.” Also, take the example of tick bites, which can go unnoticed, or mistreated at first.
Some ticks spread Lyme disease, and knowing whether you’ve contracted the disease is not as easy to catch as we might think. It’s not always the case that you get the ‘ring’ around the bite, and initial symptoms may seem like an ordinary cold, or another condition. The other problem is that Lyme can remain dormant for a long period before attacking the body. And when it does, it can be painful and debilitating in many ways. The reason for the symptoms could be a mystery at that point. Watch this video from DNews for more information on the topic, which is increasingly warranting more attention in media.
Mingling with lots of tourists while travelling can expose children to illness
As you may have heard, there was an outbreak of measles in Disneyland earlier this year. This case had everyone pointing fingers at a variety of purported causes. But perhaps one key lesson to take from this is to be vigilant about illnesses when frequenting areas where there are a lot of travellers.
The Center for Disease Control says travel is related to the spread of sickness, so it would be wise to take precautions when passing through areas with many travellers. An example would be to wash hands more often when frequenting tourist attractions. For example, like Stanley Park in Vancouver. Simple steps like these can reduce how easily your kids get sick. Be sure to check Health Canada’s travel advisories before leaving your city as well.
Herd immunity can determine how easily your child gets sick
Another thing to take note — how easily your children get sick is also related to how healthy their friends and classmates are. If your child is surrounded by others who do not get sick easily, chances are he or she will not get sick easily. This also works in the opposite direction. Surrounding your kids with others who are easily sick increases their chances of falling ill. This is called herd immunity, and those of you who are statistically inclined may want to examine the illness rates of your community (or herd) to get an idea of how vulnerable your child may be. This subject commonly brings up the issue of the need for vaccines. Science has agreed, practically universally, that there is no harm to getting vaccinated, though we know this is a contentious issue nonetheless.
How easily can your child get sick? Sometimes it depends on how prepared you are!
Worried your children may get sick? Learn about their surroundings! Ask your kids what kind of activities they do with friends. If they do a lot of contact sports, teach them to scrub their hands afterward (but stay away from antibacterial soaps! Here is why).
Was your kid in a schoolyard fight? Make sure they get in the habit of telling you if blood was drawn. Are they going to a place with a lot of tourists? Bring a bottle of purex! (But don’t overdo it with hand sanitizer, as it can have negative effects too). Adapting to each situation is key!