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Little Kids

Ask Dr. Dina: Should I worry about my toddler sharing germs with other kids?

Toddlers put everything in their mouths so it’s inevitable that they’ll share some germs. Here’s what you need to know to keep them healthy.

Ask Dr. Dina: Should I worry about my toddler sharing germs with other kids?

Photo: iStockphoto

My toddler is always passing around slobbery toys and cookies with other kids. Should I be worried about him sharing germs?

For the first couple of years that your child is exposed to other kids, whether at school or daycare, where they’re sharing toys, food or even just space, she’s likely to get viral infections—typically six to 12 a year or even more. Many viruses, like the common cold, roseola (also known as sixth disease), gastroenteritis (stomach flu), and hand, foot and mouth disease, are highly contagious. Your child is more likely to get sick from other kids if she’s sharing saliva, but even touching a toy and then putting her hands in her mouth can pass on germs. The more kids share, the more likely they are to get sick, but it isn’t all bad: Eventually, they’ll build up an immunity to the most common viruses.

You can’t, and shouldn’t try to, keep your child in a bubble. Social interaction is incredibly important for kids. Whether your child is exposed when she starts school or gets some colds as an infant, she will be bombarded by illnesses either way.

The best defence is teaching your child proper handwashing habits (and modelling this behaviour yourself). Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer multiple times a day. Getting enough sleep (11 to 14 hours a day for kids ages one to two; 10 to 13 hours for kids three to five), eating healthfully and exercising daily (kids one to four need three hours of activity spread throughout the day) are also key to keeping immune systems strong.

Kids will inevitably get sick sometimes, but preventing some viruses from taking hold will save you and your kid a lot of annoyance.

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