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Day Care Ailments Have a Benefit

Study shows kids in large centers have less illness later in childhood.

Toddlers who attend large group day cares before age 2½ tend to have more respiratory and ear infections at that age, but fewer such illnesses during elementary school, according to a report in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine that has been released online.

Researchers tracked children from 1,238 families in Quebec for eight years, comparing children who attended large group day cares, small facilities with 3 to 8 children, and kids who were cared for at home.

“This study provides reassuring evidence for parents that their choices regarding child care should not have a major effect on the health of their children from a long-term perspective, at least regarding respiratory tract infections with fever, gastrointestinal tract infections and ear infections,” the authors conclude.

“Children who initiate large-group child care early (i.e., before age 2½ years) may even gain protection against infections during the elementary school years, when absenteeism carries more important consequences for school adaptation and performance. Physicians may reassure parents whose children initiate large group child care early that their child’s experiencing infections is temporary and is likely to provide them with greater immunity during the elementary school years.”

The study found that kids in small group child care had no difference in infection risk from year to year, while children who were cared for at home had a higher risk of ear infection once they entered child care in late preschool.

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