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Why Toddlers And Small Children Fall Sick More Frequently?BACK

As a paediatrician, I am frequently asked by anxious parents(and grandparents) for the reason why their toddler falls sick so frequently. They will even compare their child with other children and say "the other child does not fall sick as frequently as our child". I can understand their concern and hence thought of answering their question in this blog.

Let us first understand what is happening to our body. At birth, an infant is provided with antibodies by the mother. During breast-feeding, some antibodies are also transferred. However, as the baby grows these antibodies gradually get reduced unless the infant's body produces them. Hence, one will observe that by the age of 1 year the infant starts having repeated attacks of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) which increase in frequency till the child is 5-6 year old. It is during this period that the child is developing its armamentarium of antibodies (or resistance for the lay people).

Once the child starts going to pre-school or school, the incidence of URTI increase for the following reasons:

  1. "Crowding" in the class which was not present at home.
  2. Cross-infection from other children.
  3. Exposure to another environment which has totally different viruses and bacteria which the child was not exposed to earlier.

This is a very normal and natural phenomenon and should not unduly perturb the parents. However, this does not mean that the doctor should not be consulted. Though most of the time, nothing much will be done or needed, however, occasionally the child will however require proper management.

A word about prevention or, rather, reducing the incidence of frequent attacks. It is advisable that hygiene be maintained, a good nutritious and balanced diet be given and junk food and candies and confectioneries be avoided. I am not saying that they be stopped but more stress be kept on a balanced and nutritious diet.

I hope with this understanding parents will not be unduly perturbed when their child frequently falls sick..

Dr Rajiv K Khandelwal Consultant Paediatrician



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