Ask a Pediatrician: How Do I Prevent My Kid from Getting Sick from Daycare or School?

published Dec 1, 2021
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What can parents do to reduce the chance of their kids catching colds and viruses at daycare or school?


Hi Frank!

Thanks so much for your important question!

That is indeed the ultimate question, isn’t it? If only I had something that could prevent or treat the common cold I’d have a much easier job!

Unfortunately, schools and especially daycares are areas where viruses can spread freely because they are closed indoor spaces with many other individuals. In addition, cold weather and bad ventilation can aid in viral transmission. It is very frustrating for caregivers and their children to suffer so many colds during this time!

The common cold is caused by viruses, and the best way to prevent catching and spreading them is what we have been doing during this whole pandemic: consistent face-masking, good hand hygiene, proper ventilation, and distancing when possible.

Children should wear a face mask starting at age 2 years. Viruses’ main way of transmission between people is through inhalation of virus-containing droplets and aerosols that are expelled as we cough, sneeze, talk, breathe, and sing. Masks act as a barrier between these expelled droplets and the nose/mouth. This is why masks work well against the COVID-19 virus and other viruses, and is the reason why the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend universal face-masking in all schools. 

In addition, hand hygiene is very important to decrease viral transmission! Some viruses are hardy and can stick around in the environment for extended periods of time. That means if we touch a contaminated object and then touch our nose, mouth, or eyes, we can become infected. It’s best if children can keep hand sanitizer in their backpack for easy access. Have them use it or wash their hands before eating or touching their faces. Frequent use is best!

Good ventilation is also important in limiting viral transmission it would be a good idea to ask your child’s school about whether the purifiers and HVAC systems in their school are updated with their filters changed regularly.

A lot of caregivers and parents ask me: what is the best way to “boost” a child’s immune system? The best way is actually through vaccination! Please make sure your children get vaccinated according to the recommended vaccine schedule. In addition, all eligible individuals in your family need to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and influenza as soon as possible, especially now that it is flu season.

Of note, there haven’t been any supplements or medicines that have been proven to help prevent colds or viruses. The only exception is if your child is deficient in a nutrient, but that would be very rare for most children (please speak with your child’s pediatrician if you are concerned about this). But luckily there are known ways to keep your children’s immune system in tip top shape! Healthy and balanced eating full of fruits and vegetables helps to keep children’s immune systems strong. Kids should also engage in physical activity every day. Lastly, it is very important to make sure your child gets enough sleep — their immune systems do best on a full night’s rest! 

I hope that helps! Viruses are no fun but there are absolutely ways to decrease the chances of your children catching colds this winter season. If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to talk to your child’s pediatrician.

—Dr. Risa Hoshino