Studies show that attending daycare centres increases the risk of common colds and ear infections in children between three and five, said Dr Ng Chung Wai, Family Physician and Chairperson (Infection Control & Infectious Diseases Workgroup), SingHealth Polyclinics (SHP), a member of the SingHealth group.

“Going to school and childcare exposes a child to large numbers of other children, which in turn, increases the likelihood of exposure to germs,” he said.

The importance of childhood vaccinations

Infections include the common cold as well as hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD), sinusitis, infectious diarrhoea, chickenpox and influenza. While the common cold tends to be mild, influenza can lead to severe complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis (brain infection), myocarditis (heart muscle infection) and even death, said Dr Ng.

He said that parents can play an important role in reducing the risk of infections. “If a child is unwell, staying home will reduce the chance of spreading germs. This may mean that working parents need to make alternative arrangements like having a grandparent or child-sitter look after the child. Older children can be taught good habits such as hand washing, and cough etiquette (e.g. coughing or sneezing into a tissue).”

But it is not always easy for working parents to make alternative arrangements. Thankfully, hygiene standards in some centres are good. Temperatures are checked twice a day and children with fever are turned away.

Dr Ng said parents can boost their children’s immunity by ensuring they get all the recommended vaccinations. “Childhood vaccines not only ensure that children develop antibodies which protect them against these infections, but also reduce the likelihood of the infections occurring in the population, further reducing the possibility of a child catching the infection from another child. This is what we call ʻherd immunity’."

Read on for Dr Ng's answers to commonly asked questions on children's immunity.

Ref: R14