Infectious illnesses such as pneumonia and influenza, which together were the leading causes of death among U.S. children in the early 20th century, have declined 99.7 percent. Common childhood illnesses such as diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, mumps, and rubella are rare except in communities where immunization rates are low, and polio is unheard of in our country today. Although younger children are more susceptible to infectious illness because their immune systems are immature, as they grow older, the incidents of infectious disease decreases as their immune systems mature. Furthermore, children who experience more infectious disease at an early age in group out-of-home care have a decreasing incidence of infectious disease as they grow older. In fact, they have less infectious illnesses in kindergarten than children who were taken care of exclusively at home. Illness also decreases with years of attendance in out-of- home early care and education settings.
There are negative consequences of childhood illness, including:
It’s unpleasant to be sick (for children or the adults that may also become infected).
Illnesses that are minor in children can be much more serious for adults and pregnant women.
Some illnesses have severe effects (and can even be life-threatening).
There are short-term medical costs.
There may also be additional child care costs or lost wages for parents/caregivers of children that must be excluded from group care.
Overuse of antibiotics in an effort to get children well contributes to antibiotic resistance among common bacteria.
To prevent illness we need to understand the different ways illness is spread, how immunizations protect children, and what universal precautions early care and education program staff can take to prevent the spread of illness.