Babies in Day Care Catch Stomach Bugs Earlier, But Get Fewer Later

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Babies in day care catch their first stomach bug earlier than home-based infants, but end up getting fewer of these gastrointestinal illnesses during their preschool years, new research suggests.

Analyzing a group of more than 2,200 children — 83 percent of whom attended day care before age 1 — Dutch scientists found a 13 percent higher rate of so-called acute gastroenteritis, or “stomach flu,” in day care children in their first two years.

Later on, however, day care kids seemed to enjoy a protective effect from their early virus exposure, and suffered fewer stomach bugs from ages 3 to 6 years than peers who hadn’t attended day care.

“Day care does influence the timing of [gastroenteritis] but does not increase [its] overall burden,” said study author Marieke de Hoog, a postdoctoral researcher in public health epidemiology at University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands.

“It’s even possible that the protective effect persists beyond 6 years of age,” she added. “However, more research is needed to support that.”

The study was published online April 25 in the journal Pediatrics.

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