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Do You Feel Like Your Kid is Always Sick?

Do You Feel Like Your Kid is Always Sick?

Growing up, was there that one kid who always seemed to be out sick? (Or, maybe you were that kid, unfortunately.) As a child’s developing immune system is exposed to different bacteria and viruses, it’s normal for them to get sick multiple times a year. But when you start to feel like you’re spending way too much time on the phone with the school nurse and the pediatrician’s office, it can be frustrating.

Getting sick all the time is not just bad luck, and it’s normal to wonder what’s going on when your kid is on his 4th ear infection or third bout of strep and your sister’s kid has had just one case of the sniffles. Potential underlying reasons for recurring illnesses like colds, strep throat and ear infections vary depending on the illness, the child and the circumstances (i.e. daycare vs. no daycare).

Let’s look at the illnesses that are typically the most frequent to least frequent in kids:

Common colds

Five or six per year is average, and up to 10 is still in normal range. There are over 100 viruses that trigger the common cold, so there are plenty to go around -- especially if your little one goes to daycare. Plus, cold symptoms can last for as long as 14 days, and a cough can linger for weeks, which can make it feel like the child is always sick. Kids with respiratory allergies like asthma may experience more pronounced symptoms, which make each cold that much worse.


There is no worse sound for parents, yet 2-3 times per year is considered an average number of times for a kid to vomit (this doesn’t mean baby spit up). Most of the time it can be contributed to an infection or food poisoning and is relatively short-lived. Some babies and toddlers gag easily while eating or during teeth brushing, which can cause vomiting. If your child vomits frequently, there’s likely something else at play, like gastroesophageal reflux or cyclic vomiting. Contact your pediatrician, who may set you up with a pediatric gastroenterologist.

Ear infections

Two per year up to age 3 is considered normal. Ear infections often result from another illness like a cold or allergy that causes congestion and swelling of the nasal passages, throat and eustachian tubes, a pair of narrow tubes that run from each middle ear to high in the back of the throat, behind the nasal passages. A child is more at risk if More at risk if he or she:

  • Is between 6 months and 2 years old, because of the size and shape of their eustachian tubes and because their immune systems are still developing
  • Goes to daycare, where colds are more likely
  • Have seasonal allergies that cause swelling in the eustachian tubes (pollen is often a culprit) may
  • Live with a smoker and inhale secondhand smoke, which can irritate the eustachian tubes

Strep throat

Most common in kids ages 5-15, getting it once a year is considered normal. If your child gets it repeatedly, he or she may have never fully recovered in the first place. Many kids don’t respond to the first round of antibiotics, so may need a longer course or a different antibiotic all together. And one study found that half of parents stop giving antibiotics after three days, which is not effective at stomping out that bacteria. Recurring strep throat -- seven or more times in one year -- can result in stubborn bacteria on the tonsils, so talk to your doctor to see if a tonsillectomy is an option.

One of the best ways to keep your little ones healthy is to stay up-to-date on their immunizations. For example, the PCV vaccine, given from 2 months through 12-15 months, protects them against 13 different types of Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria. These bacteria are the most common cause of ear infections, sinus infections, pneumonia and meningitis in children. The flu vaccine is available for ages 6 months and up, and as of June 2022, the COVID-19 vaccine was approved for ages 6 months and up.