How can I keep my baby healthy during cold and flu season? Baby's Health & Wellness

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mom and baby in the winter
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When the colder months hit, it can feel like your family is getting hit by one cold or flu bug after the next. You're probably concerned about your baby's susceptibility to viruses, and you undoubtedly want to do everything you can to protect him or her. Here's what a doctor and moms say may work to minimize your baby's chances of getting sick. 

Make Sure Everyone at Home Is Protected

"Handwashing is the single most important way to keep a newborn healthy during cold and flu season. Handwashing is always preferable to hand sanitizer, because it physically removes the germs from the hands [rather than just killing them]. But if soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer is the next best option. We all carry germs whether we are sick or not. Washing hands upon arrival into the home is a good practice to start after having a newborn. If someone is sick in the house,...

"Handwashing is the single most important way to keep a newborn healthy during cold and flu season. Handwashing is always preferable to hand sanitizer, because it physically removes the germs from the hands [rather than just killing them]. But if soap and water are not available, hand sanitizer is the next best option. We all carry germs whether we are sick or not. Washing hands upon arrival into the home is a good practice to start after having a newborn. If someone is sick in the house, they should minimize contact with the baby if possible. Avoid sick visitors coming into your home if it is not essential that they come. Healthy toddlers should wash their hands before touching a baby and preferably just touch the baby on their feet. All household members and caretakers should be vaccinated for flu. Infants cannot receive a flu vaccination until 6 months of age, so their best protection against the flu is making sure that everyone at home is protected." -- Dori Anchin, MD, pediatrician at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network, Valhalla, New York 

Wear Your Baby

"I like to hold the baby close in a carrier, instead of pushing him in the stroller when we're out and about. I think it really discourages people from trying to reach out and touch him (with their germy hands!) when we're out in public."

Sanitize What You Can in Public Places

"I always sanitize all the shopping carts I put the baby in -- before I even put their cover on the seat. And I keep hand sanitizer with me, occasionally putting it on his hands."

Hydration May Help

"Hydration, hydration, hydration. I believe it's important to keep your baby as hydrated and well-fed as possible. Make sure you -- the parent or caregiver -- wash your hands before touching or preparing food or touching your baby. Ask visitors and friends to do the same. Keep your home at comfortable temperature. If your winters are dry, consider running a humidifier in the room where your baby sleeps."

Breastfeed to Pass on Antibodies

"Doctor says breastfed babies tend to get fewer infections! Breast milk will pass on your antibodies, other proteins, and immune cells to your baby. So, if you're able to, you'll do well to nurse your little one through cold and flu season. If you're sick, keep up the feedings!" 

Feed Baby Fruits & Veggies

"If your baby's old enough to be eating solids, I recommend giving them plenty of fruits and veggies. I really believe it can help, because they're getting all those great vitamins and antioxidants that may fight off bugs!"

Adopt a 'Look but Don't Touch' Policy

"Make visitors wash their hands! And limit unnecessary visitors or adopt a 'look but don’t touch' policy. Of course everyone wants to hold the baby, but it’s just not worth the germs to let everyone pass around the newborn like a hot potato. If relatives get feisty, remind them that RSV [respiratory syncytial virus] is the number one reason newborns get hospitalized, and they might have it without knowing it. Don't be afraid to scare people into behaving considerately!"

The advice on CafeMom aims to educate, inform, and provide a range of solutions to the issues moms care about. It is not a substitute for consultation with a medical professional or treatment for a specific condition. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem without consulting a qualified professional. Please contact your health-care provider with questions and concerns.