Could childhood infections lead to mental disorders later on in life? That’s what both parents and health professionals have been asking for years and now there’s a new study that says there’s a possibility it might be true. Here’s what you need to know.
According to NPR, researchers have found there’s a chance that serious infections during childhood can increase the risk of mental disorders in a new study. Researchers gathered information from hospitalizations and prescription medicines for over 1 million children born in Denmark between 1995 and 2012. The data came from two registries: the Danish National Patient Registry and the Danish National Prescription Registry.
"We could follow individuals from birth, so there was no missing information during the study period," says Dr. Ole Köhler-Forsberg of Aarhus University Hospital, a neuroscientist and one of the authors of the study, adding, “Most of them are those infections that you and I and all others have experienced.”
In addition, the study found that less severe infections treated with anti-infective medications, like antibiotics, were associated with increased risks of 40 percent and 22 percent. Dr. Kohler-Forsberg also emphasized that the study found only a correlation, so the findings do not mean that infections, or receiving treatment for them, can cause mental disorders.
Dr. Roger McIntyre, professor of psychology and pharmacology at the University of Toronto, tells NPR, “This idea that activation of the body's immune inflammatory system as a causative factor in ... select mental illnesses is one that has really caught on.This study adds to that generally, but builds the case further in a compelling way."
Despite the information, Dr. Kohler-Forsberg adds that parents should not be afraid when their children get sick or when they need antibiotics. In other words, parents should not feel worried or alarmed, should their child get sick. What’s more, they should always follow the proper protocol in making sure that their children rest and recover after an infection or an illness.The study’s researchers add that infections are not bad, especially if they are not life threatening. As a matter of fact, both children and adults need infections to develop their immune system. With that being said, in some rare cases, the infection can increase the risk for a mental disorder.
If your child is sick or if you have any additional questions or concerns, definitely talk to your child’s pediatrician or a trusted health professional for more information.