Germs. The word alone can put a room of new or expecting moms on high alert. After all, those pesky little microbes can be a big worry for parents trying to safeguard their tiny babies from sniffles, runny noses, fevers and worse. But not all germs (bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites) cause disease. In fact, all of us have a bouquet of normal bacteria on our skin, in our mouths and in our bellies that help us stay healthy (sounds gross, but it's true). They aid with digestion and building immunities, and, believe it or not, keeping them is as important as avoiding their disease-causing germ cousins.
The story of the germ is one of good versus bad, and the happy ending results from finding a balance in the approach to both. Despite Herculean efforts to keep baby's environment clean, germs happen. Most infants will have between six and eight respiratory infections (colds, ear infections, bronchitis) each year. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn't think a child's environment can be “too clean,” so do the best you can to police your collective space.
Babe in the Icky, Dirty Woods
Tips to keep your newborn germ-free
Since newborns have immature immune systems, every effort should be made to minimize their contact with bacteria and viruses that cause diseases. The big bad wolf has many friends, including respiratory syncytial virus, influenza, rotavirus, pertussis (whooping cough) and group B streptococcus. Even though it is impossible to completely control a newborn's environment, there are a few things that parents can do to limit a new baby's exposure without making themselves nutty in the process.
Hold all calls Tell Aunt Sally with the runny nose to stay away! It's important to keep a young infant from anyone with symptoms of infection: fevers, sore throats, coughs, sniffles and sneezes. Remind excited relatives and friends that the gift of keeping their germs to themselves trumps any teddy bear or romper set.
Clean team Wash your hands. A 20-second scrub with warm water and soap is the best prevention of spreading germs. It's also the single most important thing a person caring for a newborn can do. So, scrub your hands every time before scooping up your little one; ask others to always do the same. It's especially important whenever you've handled raw vegetables or meat, played with your pet, visited the bathroom or shaken someone's hand.
Smooch-free zone We know, your baby is just so darn kissable. But for the love of germ prevention, keep the smooches away from her face. Saliva and mucus are two hotbeds for germs, and avoiding big wet ones on the cheek is another defense in protecting her health.
House arrest Avoid grocery stores, restaurants, malls, festivals and other large crowds for the first few weeks. Bypassing the adoring, baby-loving masses and their host of pathogens will help keep your little one sniffle-free.