By: Adrian Smith
Daycare has long been noted for its academic benefits, particularly long term. For example, studies have shown that high school students who went to a high quality day care as kids earn better grades and keep themselves out of trouble more than those students who didn’t. Similarly, adults who went to daycare as children are four times more likely to see a college degree.
In Europe, daycare has been seen as the reason birthrates in France and Norway have been higher, seeing as childcare helps parents get back to work sooner. But this new Dutch study suggests that there are also long term health benefits for children who attend daycare. Researchers from the University Medical Center Utrecht suggest if children are infected at an early age, they build up immunity against viruses and bacteria, citing daycare as the place to get your kid sick, so they can grow stronger. An experiment was organized where researchers closely tracked the incidence of acute gastroenteritis, a common stomach flu known as AGE, in 2, 200 children in the city of Utrecht over their first 6 years of life—83 percent of those starting daycare before the age of one.
The effects of AGE include vomiting, fever symptoms and diarrhea. The illnesses were tracked by primary care visits, meaning that secondary-care visits like trips to the hospital were left out of the study. At the end of their experiment, researchers found that the incidence rate of AGE was similar for kids attending daycare as compared to the ones who didn’t. However, the timing of their illnesses and the effect AGE had on each group of children was significant. Kids who attended daycare were more likely to suffer through AGE’s symptoms only during their first couple years of life, and became less likely to show the virus’s symptoms afterward. Although putting kids in daycare correlates with infection, this can ultimately be a good thing. The results of their experiment led researchers to believe that if kids are put into childcare early, they develop a stronger immune system, which helps them battle viruses and infections like AGE as they grow older.
Though the study isn’t too telling in terms of later cases of AGE, since they only tracked the affects of the illness in the early stages of life. Researchers will need to conduct further research in order to say for certain whether or not the protective effect will continue as the child grows up. In the meantime, while they’re still young, it seems your kids, and their immune systems, could benefit from a bit of tough love.