Attention, parents of kindergartners.
As if you needed something else to worry about, we are here to give you another thing to add to the list: Your child is about to enter into a germ-infested world where common colds, the flu and all sorts of bacteria and viruses fly around like spitballs during detention.
It's a world populated by snotty-nosed, space-invading munchkins who trade germs back and forth with abandon. And, get this: Your lovely little child is one of the culprits, thanks to the fact that she's human.
There's good news, though. Most notably, this is the natural order of things, and all those colds and other common maladies that little Junior catches are actually helping build his immune system.
And if your daughter has been in day care the past few years, the prognosis is even better: Her immune system is going to be quite a bit more developed than non-day-care kids, and she'll get sick a lot less often.
"It is actually shown that kids are sickest in day care in the first year, and then that prevalence decreases, especially after the age of 3. They rarely get sick later," said Dr. Colleen Olson, a pediatrician in Toledo, Ohio.
Part of being a human is building a "repertoire of immunity," said Dr. Carmen Weeber-Morse, a pediatrician with Perryburg (Ohio) Pediatrics.
The body processes antigens that help build immunity more efficiently starting at the age of 2.
So kids who are exposed to nasty stuff early on are unwittingly building up their defenses against the cold and flu and all the other junk that we all have to fend off every year.
The problem is exacerbated among youngsters because "children are considered carriers for a lot of diseases, especially the cold and flu," Olson said.
We've all seen it before among the pre-kindergarten crowd and there's no gentle way to put it: They're nose-pickers and finger-lickers who are not the cleanest people in the world.
Parents should start instilling routine cleanliness habits in their little ones, like teaching them to keep their hands to themselves, wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom and sneeze into their elbow.
Parents also should relax a little bit when it comes to keeping their child out of school if he's sick. Unless there's vomiting, a high fever or serious respiratory problems, there's no reason for a child to stay home with a simple cold, Olson said.
And you're probably not doing any of the other children a favor by trying to prevent spreading the illness, because by the time the child shows symptoms, it's too late.
"Kids actually can spread viruses one day before they show symptoms to up to five days after they show sickness," she said. "It's really impossible to say kids should stay home if they have a cold. If they have a runny nose or a slight cough, but they're happy, active, and they have no fever, then they can go."
Her view was echoed by Weeber-Morse, who said children will get sick five or six times over the course of a school year, especially those who never were in day care.
In the meantime, make sure you have plenty of tissues because your child is probably going to need them when she comes home with a cold.