Undernourished children have a higher likelihood for diarrhea and pneumonia but immunization can improve infant growth

Multiple studies show that

  1. Diarrhea and pneumonia impair children’s growth and that underlying malnutrition is a major risk factor for these conditions.
  2. “Episodes of diarrhea may predispose to pneumonia in undernourished children” and
  3. Immunization against influenza (in mothers) and Streptococcus pneumoniae may improve infant growth. In addition, new studies from Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, and Israel further support the paradigm that malnutrition is a key risk factor for diarrhea and pneumonia.

High incidence of diarrhea in young children can be associated with lower cognitive test scores

A study looking at the long term cognitive deficits faced by children in an urban Brazilian shantytown with high incidence of diarrhea in the first two years of life showed that this cohort scored significantly lower on 3/5 types of test measuring cognitive function at ages 6-10 compared to children who did not suffer recurrent bouts of early childhood diarrhea. In particular, the children who suffered from persistent early childhood diarrhea scored lower on tests assessing nonverbal intelligence (TONI) and IQ through assessing ability to match symbols to numbers (WISC-III Coding task) and short-term memory (WISC-III digit scan).

Early childhood diarrhea has been shown to hinder school readiness and performance

In a study of children in a Brazilian shantytown, researchers found that the greater the number of episodes of persistent diarrhea before age two, the more delayed a child was in terms of school readiness. Overall, each episode of diarrhea delayed a child’s starting school by 0.7 months. Likewise, 6-10 years later, increasing episodes of diarrhea before age two predicted delays in age-appropriate educational attainment.