6 Ways to Protect Your Baby During Cold and Flu Season
Your baby will get a cold at some point. It’s inevitable. Babies’ immune systems are immature, which makes them more susceptible to the more than 200 different viruses that cause the common cold. Plus, your baby—like all babies—loves to touch everything as he explores the world. And pretty much everything he touches winds up in his mouth, which is the best place for icky germs to make their way into his body.
Don’t worry! You don’t have to give in and just wait for the inevitable to happen. There are steps you can take to help prevent the number of colds your baby will get. And, perhaps most important, there are steps you can take to ensure he never gets the flu.
Follow these six tips for a healthier cold and flu season.
Be on high alert for the first two months. Before your baby has had his first round of immunizations, it’s crucial to have every defense up. The number one thing you can do during this time is to keep the baby away from crowded places like shopping malls and grocery stores.
Keep your baby covered when in public places. If you’re past the two-month point and make a trip to the mall, keep your baby in the stroller with a thin blanket over the opening. Chances are your baby will be snoozing anyway (at least we hope so, for your sake!) and this will prevent strangers from being tempted to take a peek or—worse—a touch!
Always carry disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer. Germs can live up to five hours on things like shopping carts, so make it a habit to wipe things down. If you’re not able to wash your hands, a little hand sanitizer can go a long way.
Enforce a strict “no sick guests allowed” policy. If your mother-in-law is getting over bronchitis and proclaims she won’t touch the baby but just has to see him, stay strong. Sorry, MIL, you need to stay away until you no longer have symptoms. Don’t make exceptions for anyone. If someone has a fever, they need to be fever-free (without using a fever reducer) for at least 24 hours.
Breastfeed if possible. If you’re able to nurse your baby, great! Studies show that babies who are exclusively breastfed for six months are less likely than formula-fed babies to get colds and ear and throat infections. It’s pretty amazing, actually. The antibodies from your body are transported through your breast milk, which gives your little one an extra line of defense. If you are unable to breastfeed, don’t be hard on yourself. There are other things you can do on this list to protect your baby.
Get your shots. Babies can’t get the flu vaccine until they’re six months old, which is why moms and moms-to-be are urged to get vaccines for flu and pertussis (whooping cough). Getting the flu shot when you're pregnant passes antibodies on to your baby that should last him for about six months. The flu can be deadly in newborns, making any side effects you may experience from the vaccination (low-grade fever, nausea) minor in comparison. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that expectant moms also get vaccinated against whooping cough between 27 and 36 weeks so they don’t pass the disease to their unvaccinated newborn. It’s also highly recommended that anyone who comes into regular with the baby receive these vaccines.