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Experts Corner

Pediatrics/Children's Health

Colds in 10-18 Month Olds
By Barbara Parker, RN, ARNP, CNM

Q. I recently heard that babies 10-18 months are probably going to be getting more colds and run of the mill illnesses because they have exhausted their newborn resistance and immune system. Is this true and is it also true that the more colds they get at that age the less likely they'll suffer as much as they get older?

A. It may be true, for a variety of reasons, that babies in the 10-18 month old range will start getting more colds. First, many babies are no longer breastfeeding in this age range, so immunities they get from Mom are no longer available. Second, babies in this age range are starting to be more social--go to play groups, day care, the nursery at church--and consequently are exposed to more viruses and bacteria. The average child will have 10-12 upper respiratory infections during the first two years of life! However, after about three months of age, a baby's immune systems is pretty mature in terms of development.

I have never seen any studies that say the more colds they have between 10-18 months, the less they will have as they get older. However, as children develop and grow, they are exposed to more germs and viruses, and do develop their own immune system more fully. Just by virtue of getting physically larger (bigger airways, better hand washing) the little bugs they pick up will give them (we hope) less trouble than when they were tiny.

Probably the best thing we can do for our kids to help them develop a strong immune system is to breastfeed them as infants, teach them good hand washing, and keep them away from tobacco smoke. Kids who live with smokers will have TWICE as many upper respiratory infections and ear infections as kids who live in a smoke-free household!

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