Research Interview

Kindergarden, a pathogen‘s paradise

It’s summer, it’s warm! Nothing seems to be further away than the annoying cold season endured over the autumn and winter. Yet the waiting rooms of pediatricians’ offices are still full. Why are the offices still full in the summer, and how can we protect ourselves and our children from constant infections?

Parents of small children often see the dreaded notice at the kindergarten door, informing families of the latest infections going around in the classrooms. These notices tend to predict the near future – many children take home almost every virus infection found in their kindergarten, even in the warmer months of the year.

Mothers and fathers assume the dual role of parents as well as nurses in tending to their sick children, and after a few days, they often become sick with the infection themselves.

Ten to twelve infections each year for kindergarten and preschool children

“A child’s immune system is still immature when they start kindergarten. The younger the child, the more susceptible they are to the germs that accumulate in an institution with many children,” says Wolfram Hartmann, President of the Professional Association of Pediatricians and Youth Physicians (BVKJ).

Children under the age of two can generally have four to ten respiratory infections per year – and up to 13 if they attend daycare, explains Dr Meg Fisher, specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at Monmouth Medical Center in West Orange, New Jersey, USA.  With each infection, a toddler develops new antibodies to fight the infection, and builds up gradually, resulting in fewer infections over time. 

The Professional Association of Pediatricians and Youth Physicians in Hesse calls for improved hygiene practices in kindergartens and daycares to combat infections. Simple hygiene measures such as coughing and sneezing in the crook of the elbow, periodically opening windows to let in fresh air, regular hand washing and the use of disposable handkerchiefs can go a long way in reducing the risk of infection. To achieve the best results, these hygiene measures should be practiced in schools, daycares, and at home.  When a child does become sick, allowing them an adequate time at home to recover from their illness can also go a long way in ensuring these illnesses don’t spread.

Childrens’ health impacts parents’ health

Children are frequently bringing home new viruses that parents are not necessarily exposed to in the office. Coughing, sneezing or close physical contact can increase the potential for infections to be passed on. Parents also interact more closely with their children than their colleagues, making them even more susceptible.

To prevent themselves from also becoming ill, parents must implement certain measures. Ferdinand Gerlach, President of the German Society for General and Family Medicine (DEGAM) draws specific attention to the importance of sleep and stress:

“There is a connection between the body’s willingness to defend itself against illness and lack of sleep or stress. This weakens the immune system”.  Gerlach also emphasizes the importance of handwashing in preventing the spread of infection, “Rules number one, two and three must therefore read: Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.”

This applies equally to children and parents. Even if we cannot avoid every infection, we can still protect ourselves from some.

In order to prevent the spread of infections and encourage children to wash their hands, OPHARDT hygiene has developed dispenser specially designed for children in kindergartens and daycares. Click here to read more about our pilot project, where our specially designed dispenser was tested by children.



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