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Children's Health Children's Health Basics

Why Is My Child Always Sick?


Author:

Herschel Lessin, MD

Children's Medical Group, NY

Medically Reviewed On: October 02, 2013

It’s 11 a.m. and I’m in the midst of another busy winter day in my pediatric office. The reception area is over-flowing with children and their parents, and they all seem to be coughing, sneezing, and blowing their noses.

My next patient is Timmy Cooper, an ordinarily charming three-year-old, who is acting not quite so charming today. As I walk in the door, Mrs. Cooper blurts out, “Doctor Lessin, he’s sick again! He’s got a fever, he’s coughing and they sent him home from daycare. If I miss any more work, I’m going to lose my job. My mother insisted I ask you why he’s sick all the time. Shouldn’t we run some tests?”

In my 20 years of caring for the health of children, I cannot begin to tell you how often I’ve heard this complaint. Childhood is viewed by nearly all of us as a time of good health. But while children are nowhere near as likely to suffer the serious or chronic illnesses that adults all too often suffer, good health is a relative thing. If you’ve had children, you know that kids get sick a lot and are prone to a vast array of illnesses. Many parents feel as though they are in a “revolving door” to my office. Their children get over one illness and they are back with yet another, prompting parents to ask, “Why is my child always sick?”

In order to answer this question, we must learn a little about the common childhood illnesses: What causes them? How much is “too much?” What factors increase the risk of illnesses? What can we do to prevent them? What can we do to treat our children when they are sick?
 

What Happens When Our Children Get Sick?

As we all know, there are plenty of germs out there. When a child is exposed to any germ, it may get around the body’s defenses and gain entry. Kids help things along by not being very concerned with where they put their hands or how close they get to their little friends. One child’s germs can easily make the acquaintance of his playmate.

Once inside, germs quickly find a home inside the cells of the child’s body. They take over the cells and use them to make more germs. This process often kills the host cell (the cell in which the germ is residing), releasing the new germs to find more new cells to continue the process of reproduction. Depending on where the germs settle, the result is a malfunction of a body system that causes the symptoms of the illness.

If germs settle in the upper respiratory tract, we get cold symptoms such as cough and runny nose. If they settle in the lower respiratory tract, we get wheezing or pneumonia. If they settle in the bladder, in the blood or brain, or in other body tissues, we get symptoms of malfunction in those areas. To make matters worse, the germs give off toxins that also affect the body and can make us sick.
 

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