Beginning daycare at a younger age may reduce children’s illnesses during the elementary school years, a new study says. The report, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, tracked 1,2000 children in Quebec from birth through age eight. They found that kids who began attending a daycare program with at least seven other children when they were younger than two-and-a-half initially got sick more – suffering 60% more respiratory tract and ear infections than stay-at-home toddlers. However, these same children then experienced 21% fewer respiratory tract infections and 43% fewer ear infections during their first years in elementary school. The children had, on average, three respiratory infections, one ear infection and one gastrointestinal infection each year. No variance in gastrointestinal infection rates was seen among the different groups of children.
The study’s lead author, Sylvana Cote of the University of Montreal, in Quebec, suggested that being sick more frequently at a younger age may help to build children’s immunity and thus enable them to better protect themselves against infections at a later age.
About one in three children in the U.S. attends an organized childcare program prior to kindergarten.