My firstborn, my son, now 2.5 years, was subjected to life-saving surgery at 20 weeks in utero and was born almost three months early. Weighing in at just over a kilo, he spent about eight weeks in neonatal intensive care before we took him home.
Strangely enough, he has never really been ill since.
I hope I am not jinxing him by writing this particular blog, but those around us often comment on how healthy he is, which, given his start in life, seems pretty miraculous.
Ok, he's had the sniffles, and vomited once or twice. Perhaps three or four runny nappies, but put it this way: he's never needed extra sleep because of illness. I remember occasionally, when he was younger, almost wishing he'd get a slight dose of flu so I could get forty winks during the day - an awful wish, and one that was never granted.
It's been the same story with my daughter, almost 10 months. She's had a few sniffles and snuffles and some dry skin, and that's been it. But I realise that I've started thinking this is a bad thing, because the prevailing wisdom on this issue is that kids should be exposed to viruses to have better immune systems when they get to school.
On present evidence, my kids are going to be in for a big dose of illness at the age of five!
It's not that I have kept my kids away from germs. They've mixed with other kids - after one coffee group meeting I was informed that one of the kids went on to, that night, develop such a severe case of chicken pox he had blisters in his eyes. Despite the fact both my kids had hoovered up every sucked lollipop and scrap of food on the ground, they didn't develop a thing!
After another birthday party recently I noticed my daughter seemed to have an extremely high fever, which lasted for two days.
But she continued eating, playing and occasionally laughing, while the birthday boy himself was taken to the doctors with a fever of 39 degrees and was totally off his oats.
I'm in the peculiar position of almost wishing my children got a little sick. But because they don't attend daycare I am perhaps unlikely to get the chance to get them their share of germs. My sisters, who both have toddlers in daycare, are routinely attending to gastro-enteritis, flus and conjunctivitis (in some cases, my sisters get the illness and the kids don't!)
So, are my kids too darned healthy for their own good? I was interested to read this blog entitled Fact or Fiction: "Building" your Child's Immunity through Illness. The author has done her research and found that, in fact, the old wives tale is true: children exposed to illness through daycare do have less absenteeism from primary school through sickness; though the common cold is the most common sickness and no matter how many times your child gets it, he or she can still get it again (though, as the body's fought off "a" cold virus before, subsequent colds may be less intense).
A footnote from a doctor writing in: apart from vaccinations, which are a "weakened" form of a virus, one should not, however, intentionally expose a child to a "wild" virus (ie. another sick child) as things like chicken pox can have serious complications in some kids.
For more reading:
Day-care exposure may reduce Hodgkin's disease incidence
Sharing germs at daycare
Frequent colds and daycare/preschool
Dita De Boni
Pictured above: Corban Smith from Chelsea Primary School. Photo / Kellie Blizard