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Why is my child sick all the time?

April 8, 2020

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Angie Stott, C-P.N.P.By Angie Stott, C-P.N.P for Lee’s Summit Physicians Group

This time of year, many parents coming into our offices report that their children have been sick multiple times over the past few months. It can feel like an endless cycle of viruses, office visits, and days missed from school or daycare. It’s even more confusing with everything happening related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Parents often ask if this might be a sign that their child has an immune system problem.

The average child will have four to eight viral respiratory infections each year, and each one of these illnesses can last two to three weeks before resolving. Children in daycare, school, or who have older siblings in school may experience 10-12 episodes of viral respiratory infections per year. Children who are exposed to cigarette smoke may be sick even more often. If each one of these illnesses last several weeks, a normal healthy child may be sick for about 1/3 to 1/2 of the year with a runny nose and cough!

Some children may develop pneumonia once or twice during the cold and flu season or have several episodes of ear infections or strep throat that need appropriate antibiotic treatment. If these infections respond to standard therapy (typically oral antibiotics given at home) they are not a red flag sign of a weak immune system. If the child is also growing and developing normally, appears healthy between infections, and has no family history of immunodeficiency it is unlikely that they would have a more serious condition.

Children who have multiple severe infections during the year that require hospital stays for intravenous antibiotics, infections with an unusual bacterial pathogen, or have an unusual complication after a common illness may need additional evaluation.

Infection Control at Home

Hand WashingThe best way to help reduce the number of illness days is to practice good infection control at home and in the community. This message is currently being talked about everywhere. But it really does improve the odds. Yearly flu shots and frequent hand washing with proper technique especially before eating/drinking, and after using the restroom are the best defense against illness. Avoiding secondhand smoke is also very important.

Spring allergies are going to make noses run again. Word to the wise… restart allergy medicines now if you or your child are an allergy sufferer!