So what is “normal” in terms of infections in toddlers and children?
The number of infections a baby has in the first few years is determined to an extent by exposure to infections, for example whether they are in creche or at home, whether they have older siblings or not. As a guide:
• Babies > 6 months and toddlers: have on average 6-10 minor illnesses a year (colds, fevers, gastro-enteritis)
• Children of school going age: have on average 5-6 minor illnesses a year
• Teenagers and adults: have on average 4 “colds”/ minor illnesses per year
How do children present when they are ill with a minor virus?
Each child seems to develop their characteristic “pattern” when ill; in my observation forming 3 main groups:
1. The fever maker (always tends to get a high fever at the beginning of a new illness)
2. The snot machine (produces loads of mucus, a snotty nose and a wet cough with most viruses)
3. The sensitive gut (often has a sore tummy when ill)
Important facts to know about childhood minor “colds” are:
• Most colds have significant symptoms (runny nose, miserable, fever) for 2-4 days THEN bumbling symptoms (such as excess mucus, poor appetite, grumpiness) for many days afterwards
• The average length of a cough after a respiratory infection is 18 days!
• Children are usually at their most infectious 24 hours before onset of symptoms until 48 hours afterwards
Taking this into consideration: imagine a young child with a “normal” number of colds of 10 per year: this means that they get a new illness every 5 weeks, and are ill/cough for 3 weeks afterwards, perhaps OK again for a week or two, then the next illness is scheduled!
It is no wonder that it can feel as if one’s child “is always ill!”