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Ask Dr. Marla: Should I be concerned about the never-ending cold?


My child ALWAYS has a runny nose. I’ve heard that many toddlers, especially those in daycare, can appear to have a never-ending cold. Is this true, or should I be concerned?


The never-ending cold! You are not alone in this sentiment. It certainly is not unusual for me to see kids, when first in daycare, have a spike of infectious diseases such as common colds, ear infections and fever. The truth is – it is not such a bad thing! Kids who don’t go to daycare are likely to see the same kind of increase when they start attending preschool for the first time.

A study in the Archives of Pediatrics followed more than 1,000 Canadian families with babies from five months to eight years. It found that children who attend large group child-care centres before age two and- a-half DO get more respiratory and ear infections than those cared for at home, so your observation is accurate!

The good news? These children turned out to have fewer respiratory and ear infections once they started elementary school. The issue really is exposure to other children. Generally, it is fair to say the outcome – getting colds and runny noses – is the same, but delayed for children who don’t attend daycare before preschool. 

So while there seems to be that perpetually runny nose now, there will be protection against later infections. This was seen for those who went to the larger child-care centres, (about 10 groups of eight to 12 kids) but not those who were cared for in smaller facilities. Likely your child is being exposed to lots of viruses through close contact and shared toys. Although a daycare may do its best to keep toys clean, the common source exposure is inevitable.

The early exposure might mean that the children have the opportunity to build up their immunity early, protecting them later on.

Got a question? Submit it to Dr. Marla.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, December 2013.

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