Protect your kids from common 'daycare diseases' (2024)

If it seems like your young children are getting sick all the time, it’s because they probably are.

Infants and toddlers are especially prone to contracting diseases because their immune systems are in the early stages of development. Little ones in day care and preschool have an even higher risk.

“Day care centers cluster infants and young children, who are all especially susceptible to disease because their immune systems are inexperienced,” Dr. Ellen Fitzpatrick said. “They basically contract every virus they encounter. This, coupled with close quarters, sharing toys and any lapse in hand hygiene or diaper duty, creates the perfect environment for viruses and other microorganisms to breed.”

Though dealing with a sick toddler isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, these early experiences are an important piece of a child’s physical development. “Day care diseases,” as they’re often referred to colloquially, usually aren’t preventable, but knowing what to expect and how to deal with these common ailments can help.

What are ‘daycare diseases’?

“Day care disease” isn’t a medical term, but it refers to the many possible diseases that children pick up during their first years of socialization. These diseases are common in environments like day care, preschool and pre-kindergarten.

“Young children and infants who attend day care or preschool generally have a new infection every 3-4 weeks, and manifest symptoms every two months,” Fitzpatrick said.

Common daycare diseases


While colds and upper respiratory infections are common for everyone, Fitzpatrick says parents should expect their children in day care to catch a cold 5-6 times a year. She suggests using conservative care measures such as Tylenol, Motrin, fluids, humidifiers and saline nasal spray. “I do not recommend cough medicines because there is no evidence that they work, the dosing can be confusing and they can have harmful side effects,” she said.


Respiratory syncytial virus tends to occur in children under age 2. RSV symptoms usually are mild and similar to cold symptoms, but in some cases, RSV can cause serious diseases such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia. “Sick infants with labored breathing, color change or difficulty feeding need to get medical attention immediately,” Fitzpatrick said.


Also known as the stomach flu, this disease can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever. “The symptoms usually clear up within a few days with rest and fluids. Slow feeding with Pedialyte can help, but avoid fruit juices because the sugar content can make diarrhea worse,” Fitzpatrick said.

Hand, foot and mouth disease

Caused by the Coxsackie virus, this disease is common, especially in the summer and fall, and often affects children under age 5. Symptoms include sores in the mouth and throat, and a rash on the hands, feet or legs. Fitzpatrick recommends using Tylenol or Motrin to help with the pain, as well as popsicles to soothe a sore throat. While this disease isn’t serious, it can last for 7-10 days and is very contagious. Call your pediatrician if you notice signs of dehydration, such as dry lips and trouble urinating.

Pink eye

Conjunctivitis, or pink eye, is usually bacterial and requires antibiotic eye drops, though it also can be caused by a virus or allergies. The antibiotic drops can clear it up quickly, but the child will be contagious for 24 hours after treatment. During that time, be sure your child is washing his or her hands regularly and doesn’t touch his or her eyes. Wash linens and clothes to prevent the disease from spreading within your household.

Teach your kids how germs are spread

Glitter can be a great tool to illustrate how germs are spread. “Have kids apply hand gel and then stick their hands in glitter. Let them wipe their hands on their pants, shake hands with friends and handle their toys so they can see how glitter — and germs — spread,” Fitzpatrick said.

Prevention tips

Kids are going to get sick sometimes, but there are helpful ways to minimize the spread of germs.

  • Basic hygiene and handwashing are key. Teach your kids good handwashing techniques, such as using warm water and plenty of antibacterial soap, as well as when they need to wash their hands, such as after using the restroom and before eating.
  • Keep your kids at home when they’re sick. Because diseases can spread so rapidly in a day care setting, it’s important to keep them home whenever they’re sick and until you know they’re no longer contagious.
  • Look for smaller day cares and preschools to minimize the number of people who could get your children sick. Fitzpatrick also recommends interviewing day cares about their hygiene practices and infection control policies.
Protect your kids from common 'daycare diseases' (2024)


Protect your kids from common 'daycare diseases'? ›

Make sure they know to wash their hands frequently throughout the day, especially before eating or after using the restroom. Talking to your day care provider about what illnesses they may be seeing and their policies and procedures for cleaning and disinfecting toys, surfaces, and other areas of the day care center.

How to prevent kids from getting sick at daycare? ›

Make sure they know to wash their hands frequently throughout the day, especially before eating or after using the restroom. Talking to your day care provider about what illnesses they may be seeing and their policies and procedures for cleaning and disinfecting toys, surfaces, and other areas of the day care center.

What is the most common illness in daycare? ›

Diarrhea and gastroenteritis are common at day care centers. These infections cause vomiting, diarrhea, or both. The infection is spread easily from child-to-child or from caregiver-to-child. It is common among children because they are less likely to wash their hands after using the toilet.

What precautions will you take to reduce the risk of infectious diseases in a daycare? ›

Emphasize proper handwashing • Good nutrition • Regular exercise • Sufficient daily rest • Stay current with immunizations • Take scheduled breaks and vacations • Encourage staff to stay home if sick • Providers who are ill should take care of themselves and not someone else! Stay at least 3 ft. Disinfect!

How do I protect my baby from germs at daycare? ›

6 tips on how to prevent your child from getting sick at childcare
  1. Teach your child to wash their hands properly. ...
  2. Provide nutritious meals for your child. ...
  3. Encourage your child to sleep well. ...
  4. Stay up to date with your child's immunisation schedule. ...
  5. Ask about your childcare's physical environment and hygiene practices.

Is it normal for kids to get sick every week at daycare? ›

Many parents with young children may feel like the frequent illnesses they bring home from school or daycare will never end. They might frantically ask their pediatricians, “Why is my child always sick?” It's very normal for kids to contract illnesses frequently as their immune systems build.

Why is my toddler getting sick every week from daycare? ›

“At daycare, children have increased exposure to viruses and other germs,” explains Dr. Diep. “It is actually expected that children in daycare average somewhere between six to twelve colds per year, which fortunately have a self-resolving course.”

Does daycare really build immunity? ›

Resilience to Colds: Another study showed that while children in daycare might get sick more often than those cared for at home during their first year of life, they tend to get fewer colds and respiratory infections when they start school, suggesting a more developed immune response (Lau et al., 2005).

What viruses do kids get from daycare? ›

Common illnesses in child care

The viruses responsible for colds or the flu cause the most common sicknesses in child care settings. Even though your child has had immunizations, they can get still get sick with colds, sore throats, coughs, vomiting and diarrhea.

What are the top 4 ways to prevent an infectious disease? ›

Strategies such as hand hygiene, cleaning, sanitizing, disinfection, and ventilation can help ECE providers protect the health of children in their care as well as themselves and their own families.

How to avoid bacterial infection in toddlers? ›

Prevention of Bacterial Infections in Children

Many bacterial infections in children can be prevented by following the recommended vaccination schedule. Many viral infections (such as measles, polio, hepatitis A, and hepatitis B) can also be prevented with immunization.

What are three things teachers must always do when interacting with children? ›

List the 3 things teachers must always do when interacting with children:
  • Show affection, interest and respect.
  • Call children by their names.
  • Treat children of all races, religions, family backgrounds and cultures with equal respect & considerations.

How long until kids stop getting sick at daycare? ›

In the first 2 years of life, it is common for kids in daycare to be sick with respiratory illnesses 10 to 12 times per year. After age 6, it is still common for kids to get sick 6 to 8 times per year. Nobody wants their children to be under the weather that much, but it is normal and generally not cause for worry.

Is it normal for toddlers to get sick at daycare? ›

Common illnesses in child care

Even though your child has had immunizations, they can get still get sick with colds, sore throats, coughs, vomiting and diarrhea. Children of any age will experience a lot of infection in their first year of group child care.

How do I know if my child is too sick for daycare? ›

Key facts. The most common signs of illness in children include a fever, sore throat, a blocked or runny nose, and a rash. A child who has a fever, is vomiting, or who has mucus in their eyes should not go to school or day care.

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