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Avoiding the Mistakes Even Smart Moms Make

Mistake: Not bringing fresh air into the nursery

A baby's tiny lungs are very vulnerable to allergens, secondhand smoke, and gases emitted from new paint or furniture. Air fresheners don't help; they release pollutants that, in one study, were linked with diarrhea, earache, and other symptoms in some babies. And many electronic air "cleaners" don't clean well and emit ozone, an air pollutant.

Smart solution: Open the windows in the baby's room for at least ten minutes a day. Houseplants (especially Boston fern, peace lily, and bamboo palms) clear carbon dioxide and chemical vapors. A bowl of baking soda absorbs odors, and fresh-cut flowers add good ones. Also, put high-efficient filters in your air conditioners (like 3M Filtrete, $15). As a last resort, buy an air-purifying HEPA machine, which doesn't emit ozone.

Mistake: Not taking your infant's temperature when he seems sick

Parents often skip the thermometer, claiming "he didn't feel warm to me." But the clinical sign of fever is an important hallmark for concern in really young babies, says Peter Tesler, M.D., director of pediatric ambulatory care at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. A fever of 100.4° or more in a baby under 3 months means an infection and automatically triggers an office  -- and usually an emergency room  -- visit. Always call the doctor.

Smart solution: If your baby seems under the weather, take his temperature with a rectal thermometer, which gives the most accurate reading until a child can hold a thermometer under his tongue (usually, around age 2). Karen Dunn of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, does so whenever her 5-month-old son, Nolan, seems ill or out of sorts. "Most of the time there's no fever, and my husband teases me, but on several occasions my instincts were right," she says.

Aviva Patz, a mom of two girls in Montclair, New Jersey, continues to make mistakes every day, learning as she goes.

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