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How Thumb-Sucking Spreads Germs & Illness Among Children

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Parents should learn how thumb-sucking spreads germs and illness among children so they can try to protect their kids from getting sick. Thumb-sucking has a massive impact on public health for youngsters and greatly multiplies the odds of a child contracting an illness. If more parents become educated on the topic, our schools and daycares will not be so easily attacked by common illnesses. For the good of your children, read on and internalize as much of this information as possible.

There are three main reasons why thumb-sucking increases the risk of a child getting sick:

  1. Children, inherently, have weaker immune systems.
  2. Children spread germs due to their curious nature of touching items, playing with others, and frequently putting their thumbs into their mouths. 
  3. Parents do not remove other sick children from schools and daycares. 

Young Kids Have Weak Immune Systems

Children in daycare and preschool still do not have fully developed immune systems. As a result, they are left defenseless against the many viruses that they come into contact with when exposed to so many other children. Not only are thumb-sucking children more likely to acquire parasites through the fecal-oral route, according to the Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, but a child with a thumb-sucking problem could also spread these illnesses to other children. This is because a child with an infection is more likely to suck their thumb to self-soothe and then immediately touch a surface, toy, doorknob, etc., that other children touch as well. You can see, therefore, how thumb-sucking spreads germs and illness among children rather easily.

Poor Hygiene in Daycares

Daycares and preschools are full of bacteria and viruses. Children, as most parents are already aware, are magnets for contagions. Their fascination with touching and chewing objects allows for many opportunities to get themselves and other people sick. When a child sucks their thumb, they may pick up and develop the illness left on a surface, according to Vincent Iannelli, MD, board-certified pediatrician and fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. It could spread to other kids from there. Of course, much of this has to do with the quality of the daycare’s hygiene. Preschools and daycares that can enforce strict handwashing and cleaning procedures will hopefully avoid the worst dangers of thumb-sucking, but understandably, disinfecting all toys only moments after they’re touched is nearly impossible.

Kids Go to School When They Shouldn’t

When every child in a daycare or preschool is completely healthy, having a student who sucks their thumb does not pose much of a threat. But when you introduce a sick child into the classroom, it becomes far more likely that the thumb-sucking child will catch their sickness and spread it to the other students. Thumb-sucking is a vector, allowing the disease to take hold and flourish by virtue of how much easier thumb-sucking makes it to become infected. Many of the health issues we experience from children in daycares and preschools are the result of parents not taking their sick kids out of school. 


Parasitic Infections in Finger-Sucking School Age Children” from The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal

Daycare Syndrome and Frequent Infections” from Everyday Wellness and written by Vincent Iannelli, MD