7 Ways to Protect Your Baby From Cold and Flu

Babies—especially infants in their first few months of life—may get very sick from otherwise minor illnesses like colds and the flu. They haven't had time to develop immune responses to these illnesses and may not be able to fight off the infections very well.

A baby's immune system isn't very good at fighting off illnesses when they are first born, so it's important that parents do what they can to protect their newborns from unnecessary exposure to them. 

So what is a parent to do to protect their new baby from the germs that are everywhere in our environment? Especially if the baby is born during cold and flu season? It turns out there are quite a few things you can do:

1
Insist Visitors Wash Their Hands

Hand washing is important.
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People may think you are being rude if you ask them to wash their hands before touching your baby—but that's their problem. It's not an insult or unreasonable request. We all have germs on our hands and washing them protects everyone.

Minimizing the number of germs your baby comes into contact with when she is very young will help protect her until her immune system has time to develop. Don't be afraid to speak up and insist that anyone that wants to touch your baby clean their hands first. 

2
Use Hand Sanitizer

Using hand sanitizer
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If washing your hands with soap and water isn't an option, remember to keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you so you can use it and ask others to use it before touching your baby. It will cut down on the number of germs your child comes into contact with as well. 

3
Ensure All Caregivers Are Vaccinated

Are your vaccines up to date?

Everyone that takes care of your baby needs to be up to date with all of their vaccines. An important one that many people don't think about it pertussis —or whooping cough. Rates of whooping cough are skyrocketing and it is likely because adults who are not fully immunized are passing it to young infants.

This can be a life-threatening illness for young babies. Pregnant women should get a Tdap vaccine during each pregnancy and any other adults living in the home as well as other regular caregivers should check with their health care provider to make sure they are up to date as well. 

Flu vaccines are equally as important for caregivers. Infants cannot receive a flu vaccine until they are six months old, so ensuring that everyone around them is vaccinated will help protect them from this potentially deadly illness. 

4
Stay Away From Sick People

Crowd of sick people.
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This seems pretty simple—stay away from sick people. If you know that grandma, the babysitter, or your best buddy hasn't been feeling well, ask that they stay home or avoid your child until they are completely well.

Of course, you don't always know when someone is sick. Do your best to avoid places where many people might be who could be ill. If you do come into contact with someone who is sick, request that they not hold or touch your child and encourage them to cover their cough

5
Breastfeed if Possible

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Breastfeeding is an important way to provide protection to your child after he is born. Breastmilk contains antibodies that will help build up your child's immune system and protect him from illnesses that could make him sick. It's not magic though—it's still possible for your child to get sick even if he is breastfed, but it does provide protection that formula cannot. 

That being said, there are plenty of women who cannot breastfeed for any number of reasons. If you cannot breastfeed your child, talk to his Pediatrician about which formula is best and take as many other precautions as you can against disease. 

6
Avoid Public Places for Awhile

Mucus coming out of a baby's nose
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There is no hard and fast rule about staying home after baby is born. Depending on the weather, going outside for some fresh air is likely to do both you and your infant some good. But going out in public where a lot of other people are gathered is a different story. There are no concrete guidelines, but most Pediatricians recommend keeping your infant away from crowds for at least the first couple of months of life.

Newborns and young infants don't have fully developed immune systems and may be more at risk from getting common infections. A virus, like RSV for example, only causes cold symptoms in older children and adults but can be life threatening for an infant. Doing what you can to avoid exposing your baby to these germs early in her life is an important step in keeping her healthy. 

7
Know When to Call the Pediatrician

Young girl at pediatrician's office
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There will be times that your child gets sick no matter how hard you try to prevent it. In fact, it's not uncommon for kids to get sick with cold or other viruses up to 12 times per day. If each illness lasts a week or more, that's a lot of sick days! Most of these illnesses do not require a trip to the doctor but there are certain things you should watch out for.

If your child develops a fever over 100.3 degrees F and is under 3 months old, contact her Pediatrician or health care provider or seek medical attention. Very serious illnesses can cause fevers in young infants and they need to be caught and treated quickly. If you are having trouble keeping your baby awake (more than usual) or you cannot wake your child, call the doctor right away. 

Sources:

"Common Cold and Runny Nose". Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work 16 Mar 16. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Department of Health and Human Services. 

"Germ Prevention Strategies". Health Issues 25 Feb 16. Immunizations & Infectious Diseases: An Informed Parent's Guide. American Academy of Pediatrics. 

"Medical Care and Your Newborn". For Parents Jan 15. KidsHealth. The Nemours Foundation. 

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