Health and Medical: Why is My Child Getting Sick so Often?

Aristotle is sick… again. Last week it was Hercules. Two weeks before that Hercules. And before him Aristotle. It seems like a never-ending cycle of illnesses. We’ve collected so much medication from the doctor’s office that our refrigerator is about to explode. It probably doesn’t help that the air pollution is up again.

Despite all our best efforts to boost the boys’ immunities, they are still falling ill and hubby has been questioning whether there might be some underlying health issues at play. I ended up on a doctor’s office crawl seeking professional opinions and second opinions and third opinions but the conclusion was the same: my boys are normal kids and I should expect it to be a natural part of growing up that children will fall sick. We even went to see the famous Dr Lim Miin Kang of Glen Eagles hospital – but for the record, I was already quite happy after the first second opinion. Unfortunately, others weren’t…

It would seem that this is a common question for many parents – why is my child getting sick all the time? A paediatrician even wrote an article about it – “Many parents feel as though they are in a “revolving door” to my office.” The article is a good one and I recommend reading it, but here’s the general advice from the horse’s mouth:

Children will get sick and it can be quite frequent. It’s got to do with their immature immune systems. Every time they encounter a new bug, their immune system will remember it so that the next time they face the same bug, they will be so sick. Unfortunately, there are a LOT of bugs around so your child will encounter many that his (or her) immune system has never seen before – hence the frequent illnesses. If you don’t want  your children to get sick, stop sending them to school, and stop taking them to public places. Clearly, that’s not realistic.

The more children your child is around, the more likely it is that he or she will get sick. It’s a fact of modern life. Daycare providers and parents can help by emphasizing good hygiene, cleanliness, and most importantly, frequent hand washing. All of these will cut down on, but not eliminate, exposure to illness in the daycare setting.

Does your child need further tests or prophylactic treatment? More likely than not, the answer will be “no”. I think most parents will know if there is something sinister going on with their child’s health even if they aren’t sure exactly what it is. Call it parental instinct or whatever, you will just know just like you do when your child is about to fall sick. In those cases, trust your instincts, it’s probably best to get the professional’s advice.

Just in case you’re wondering, what are the warning signs?

  • If your child’s fever is uncontrollable (even with fever-reducing meds, you are unable to bring it down)
  • If your child is very young (i.e. a baby)
  • If your child’s fever lasts for more than 3 days
  • Anything that concerns you about your child’s condition or appearance (this is my disclaimer so you don’t come back and sue the quack from Figur8 who told you that you didn’t need to worry…)

I also wanted to highlight some of the salient points from the article above:

  • In order to build immunity, kids have to get sick!
  • When kids get sick, it is usually either bacterial or viral. Bacterial infections can be treated with Antibiotics but Antibiotics are useless against viral infections. Since most of the illnesses that children get are usually viruses, they usually do not require antibiotics.

    Over-prescribing antibiotics for infections in which they are of no value is not only an expensive waste of time, but it is dangerous as well. It exposes children to drugs that can cause side effects and allergy. Equally important, it causes drug resistance in bacteria, and this ultimately makes antibiotics ineffective, a problem that is becoming very serious at the present time.

    Antibiotics are useless against viruses. While there are some anti-viral drugs on the market, they don’t work very well and are rarely used in children. Fortunately, most viruses, even though they make your child feel sick and may spread to the entire household, are usually minor illnesses. They go away without any treatment at all.

    Once again, there is no 100% assurance that your child’s symptoms are minor, even if they are caused by a virus. Therefore, if you are concerned about your child’s condition, it is better to call the doctor.

  • Last but not least!

    Another risk factor is exposure to second hand cigarette smoke, as smoking has been shown to increase the frequency and severity of all respiratory infections, in general, and ear infections, in particular. Also, you must recognize that some kids get sick more often than others. We are not all the same and our immune systems do not all function with the same level of efficiency.

What can you do to reduce the frequency of your child’s illnesses?

  • Maintain good hygiene
  • Get lots of fresh air
  • Consume immune-boosting foods (Top 10 Immunity Foods – Kiwi fruit, fish, beef, nuts, yoghurt, chicken soup, carrots, onion & garlic, broccoli and eggs)
  • Take multi-vitamins
  • Keep active
  • Get enough sleep
  • Teach your child to avoid touching his/her face
  • Drink enough water (How much water does my child need a day?)

Aristotle’s diagnosis

Aristotle was diagnosed with tonsilitis. It may be bacterial or it may be viral. Since the symptoms are the same, you can’t really tell which one it is. Dr Lim outline a very clear flowchart for us… At this early stage, the Dr Lim gave us the option to let it run its course without antibiotic treatment to see if Aristotle could recover on his own. If, in 3 days, he shows no signs of recovery, we were to begin antibiotic treatment. Once antibiotic treatment begins, we should expect to see improvement by the third day. If not, we were to return to see him. If, at any time, his fever is uncontrollable, we were also to return to see him.

Given the diagnosis, we could have chosen to begin antibiotic treatment immediately without waiting. Since antibiotic treatment is not without its own problems (side effects such as diarrhoea), I decided to “wait and see”. I confess that I loathe to treat with antibiotics unless I am sure that it is necessary. I’m glad to say to report that Aristotle is making a good recovery without the antibiotics so it was a good call.

About Dr Lim Miin Kang

Everything we have ever heard of Dr Lim Miin Kang has been positive. If his waiting room is anything to go by, I think it is testimony of his popularity. Despite already having an appointment, we had to wait 2.5 hours before we could see him. By the end of the wait, my youngest was playing trampoline on the weighing scales, my oldest was singing ceaselessly to the tune of whinge, and I was beginning to question whether Dr Lim was worth the trouble.

Was he worth it? Yes, I must agree that he is every bit as good as everyone says he is. I was impressed by his detail and his frankness. He mapped out the issues with Aristotle with clarity and was very specific about the course of action that we should take, including the options. When I asked if there was anything we could do about Aristotle getting sick so often, such as preventative treatment, he picked up a bottle of tablets on his desk (don’t know what they were exactly) and said, “They want me to promote this, but I don’t think it is necessary.” How’s that for brutal honesty? In his opinion, Aristotle was a healthy boy experiencing what was the normal course of illness for many children.

I won’t be in any hurry to return to Dr Lim for minor ailments that afflict my boys (purely because the wait would kill us – or should I say me because my boys would drive me batty) but if there is ever a medical concern with the boys that requires special attention, Dr Lim will be at the top of our list of doctors to see.

Related:

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

3 thoughts on “Health and Medical: Why is My Child Getting Sick so Often?

  1. V hardly has this problem, ok, figure *crossed*…What I did from young until now is, I will make sure I must have all these on these on the table for breakfast egg, pure fish oil, organic coconut oils, fruits( a must have), bread, milk, water and seed oil..flavoured vitamin C only occasionally ( bc I think natural is still the best), exercise as in swimming…

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  2. Hihi Shen-Li… 2.5 hours wait is a blessing with Dr. Lim. He’s Jae’s paediatric cardio, for following up on his previous 2 holes in the heart. Once, we waited from 10a.m. to 4p.m., even with an appointment!!! Imagine that with a 3+year old and baby. But no choice, cos he’s indeed a fantastic cardio. Just reading the Thank You cards at the clinic is enough to make me tear every visit. During our last visit, he double-confirmed that he couldn’t see any more hole, so no need to follow up with him anymore, what a blessing. Definitely a doctor we’d recommend.

    @Fz Teh: I think another big reason for staying illness-free is homeschooling. My boys hardly have this problem too (also fingers crossed). When they fall ill, it’s often after a routine check-up at a paed clinic (such as Dr. Lim’s super-crowded clinic), or after an enrichment class sitting beside a classmate who’s ill. Vee is prone to febrile fits (that can make him faint / choke, needing immediate help by an informed person), so this is one reason for homeschooling till he’s older and outgrows the fits.

    We also take these daily: veges & fruits (lots and varied), free-range eggs, fish, pure fish oil, multi-vitamin, cook with olive / coconut oil. They don’t drink that much water, but drink lots of soup with every meal at home. And we avoid sugary and junky food.

    All the best to our kids! 🙂

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