Everyone knows kids are little petri dishes of boogers, dirt, and germs. In fact, there have been countless theories about how young you should expose children to germs. I know my working mom friends and I have had healthy (and sometimes heated) arguments about the merits of daycare vs. a nanny for this very reason.
But a new Dutch study puts these philosophies to the test when they tracked the stomach flu in 2,200 children over their first six years of life. The study found that, while rates of the flu were similar in daycare vs. non-daycare kids, the daycare-goers (and their parents) were more likely to contract it during the first two years of life, which could help build up their immune system.
As a mom of three children who have all gone to daycare, I don’t find this surprising at all. One, because I’ve lived through the harrowing bug myself as well as a slew of other nastiness during their first year of daycare, but also because I have watched as my child licked snot off of one of his classmates. It was as charming as it sounds to witness.
In addition to health benefits, this study (and others like it) cite that daycare kids have better long-term academic success (better test scores and likelihood of getting a college degree), are more well behaved in their school years, and have better social skills than their stay-at-home comrades. Obviously, these studies are 100 percent accurate. Did I mention my kids go to daycare?
But I digress. Let’s get back to the health benefits. According to the Medical Center Utrecht epidemiologist, they believe “if you are infected at an early age you build up immunity against these viruses or bacteria.” There is a possible link that shows a “protective effect” that will continue into adulthood from being sick at an earlier age, but more research is needed to prove their theory further.
Obviously, parents must take into consideration other factors including the overall health of their child and the financial viability of in-home vs. daycare for your children, but the reality is kids are going to get sick. All things being equal, it comes down to whether you want your child building up his or her immune system earlier or later in life.
Let’s be honest, no amount of hand-sanitizer in the world will protect my son after licking snot off his pal — no matter how old he was when he did it.
h/t: Science of UsMore On