The child that has been well nourished and encouraged to exercise and play outdoors during childhood will in most cases meet the demands of school life successfully. But it must be admitted that school imposes a set of conditions on the organism which are new in its experience and frequently severely trying.
The most troublesome of these is the increased chance of contagious diseases.
Contagious diseases in general are far more importantit is simply that in the winter time human beings are crowded together and contagion is more easily spread.
Children, of course, are notably more susceptible to contagious diseases. For nearly all of these diseases the curve of immunity during the life of the individual shows that for the first few months of life immunity is high; few infants acquire any contagious disease; probably because their blood is saturated with immune substances from the mother’s blood. After at least the first year of life this passive immunity disappears, and from one to five years they are likely to catch anything. After five years, due to acquisition of some diseases, and contact to others, immunity rises; at ten years of age probably half as many are susceptible as at five. This process goes on until at twenty adult immunity is established and only about 5 per cent of the adult population will come down with an infectious disease in an epidemic.
The school age therefore is an especially dangerous period for two reasonsat that time the immunity is likely to be lowest and contacts (which means exposure) suddenly become numerous.
Fortunately we can produce artificial immunity to the most dangerous of the contagious diseases of the school age. We can give protection and it behooves every parent and guardian to be certain such protection is afforded to the child who enters this strange new world for the first time.
First, protection against that old enemy of man, smallpox. In an unvaccinated community smallpox might break out any time with terrible violence. As to when it should be done, it was recommended at the last session of the American Medical Association that the infant be vaccinated on the first day of life. The result is milder than at any later period. At least such a position indicates that vaccination should be done by the end of the sixth month.
Typhoid fever vaccine should also be givenduring about the third or fourth year. Typhoid has been reported as early as three months, but it is not until after five years that it becomes common in childhood.
Diphtheria, most malignant of childhood’s enemies, can be pre-vented in a similar way.
Whooping cough, more dangerous than it sounds, can also. For measles, the commonest, we have no protection to offer. The scarlet fever preventive has been disappointing.