Are your kids sicker more often this year?

January 20, 2010 5:41:23 PM PST
Are your children sick? Are you sick? It seems like every family has been sicker than usual lately, but is that true? We have the answer and what parents can do to build their child's immunity so they can stop getting sick. Sonia Balboa's 5-year-old daughter Isabella is sick.

"She's sick again. We're gonna make another trip to the doctor's office," said Sonia.

Isabella has been sick a lot this year. And so have thousands of other Houston children.

"Many mothers come in, I'm still seeing this, saying there's something wrong with their children because they've never been this sick, since last September or October, and never missed this much school. They've just had one virus after another," said Dr. Norris Payne of Payne Pediatrics.

If you feel like your child has been sicker this school year than in years past, you're probably right. There are several reasons for it.

It started with the swine flu which hit Houston hard from April to November. Dr. Payne says it can take kids four to six weeks to completely recover, and their weakened immune system allows them to catch other things.

"Strep throat, there's a sore throat virus going around. Headache, stomachache flu-like symptoms not as severe as the flu lasting three to five days. We've been seeing a lot of gastroenteritis with nausea, stomachache, vomiting and diarrhea," said Dr. Payne.

Doctors are working longer hours and the Dr. Payne have hired extra staff to see their young patients.

"It has been the worst year I've seen in my career," said Dr. Payne.

So what can parents do to keep kids healthy?

"Cut out the sweets and the junk food that's almost impossible to do with many families, especially with children. Diet has a lot to do with our immune system and our general health," said Dr. Payne.

He also suggests vitamins, probiotics like yogurt, and exercise.

"And get enough sleep. Studies have shown that children when they get one hour less sleep than they need, that they get sick more often," said Dr. Payne.

They'll need the immune boost to get ready for round two of swine flu. Dr. Payne predicts that could hit in February or even at spring break.

Swine flu cases dropped dramatically from November to January. Since school started in January, Dr. Payne is seeing two to three youngsters a week with swine flu. Finally, they have plenty of H1N1 vaccine, but demand has waned.