Why is my child always sick?
It’s a pretty simple question, but one that rummages the minds of many parents.
Thankfully, the answer is pretty simple and straightforward.
Children seem like they are always sick for several reasons.
They have an immature and developing immune system, which makes them more susceptible to catching infections.
They put everything in their mouths (when very young) and have much greater exposure to germs from close contact with other children, school, daycare, etc.
They have poor hygiene in general, such as rarely washing their hands.
Poor nutrition that weakens their immune function.
All of these things other than eating a nutritionally deficient diet are completely normal don’t require intervention. It’s all part of the growing up practice. For example the everything in the mouth phase is how children develop schemas that guide them through the rest of their life. It is completely normal and necessary for the evolution of their little brain. In fact, there are many lifelong benefits to having children be exposed to a lot of germs.
We call it the hygiene hypothesis, which suggests that the lack of exposure to germs during childhood leads to an increased risk of developing allergies and autoimmune diseases later in life because the immune system needs to be trained and challenged by exposure to microbes and other infectious agents. In other words, a high degree of hygiene and cleanliness deprives the immune system of the challenges it needs to develop properly.
Now, none of this is to say that your child should be sick all the time from a literal standpoint. That signals problems and that you should look deeper into causes (e.g., poor nutrition, decreased immunological function as a result of a disease state). As much as germ theory proponents want to say that pathogens directly cause disease, the reality is that your internal environment (e.g., immune function) will determine whether a microbe makes you sick (this idea is called terrain theory).
It is common and natural for momma's to want to protect their babies from all the things that could potentially hurt them. We would literally wrap them in bubble wrap if it kept them the safest of safe. But is that in our children's best interest?
Although well meaning, it only serves to weaken their future immunological function when we protect them from all things dirty. For what? Your irrational anxieties around germs? Don't get me wrong, nobody is suggesting you have your kids eschew bathing and lick the bathroom floors, but being too clean has it's consequences as well. Bacteria are everywhere and essential for robust health. This is also why it's important to not overuse antibacterial products, a practice that is known to contribute to antibiotic resistant germs.
So, why is your kid always sick? Because it's a normal part of growing up!
You want your kid to be sick because it means that their immune system is learning and developing. The worst possible thing you could do is bottle them up and take every measure possible to prevent illness. In the long-run, that will just lead to a weak and crippled immune system and greater susceptibility to becoming sick and having more severe outcomes when they do get sick.