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Stop Those Germs!

Tuck and Dodge

Keep baby hands tucked away. An infant's hands are almost irresistible to people -- kiss, kiss -- so tuck them under a blanket when venturing out. At home, ask adults to wash up before holding a new baby, and teach children not to touch her face, hands, pacifier, or bottle. Couch such requests in a positive way: When Max Breeden of Birmingham, Alabama, became a big brother last fall, his parents taught him that the place where baby George liked to be kissed the best was on his feet.

Teach your child to dodge germs. If you were a cold virus, you'd find that an easy way to get a free ride is for a sick child to cough or sneeze into her hands, then touch someone else, who then touches his own eyes or nose, says Margaret Stone, M.D., a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente and an assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at UCLA.

So rather than teach a child to cover his mouth with his hands when he coughs, have him hold an arm up over his mouth and cough into the crook of his elbow or the back of his wrist. And if your healthy child has an itchy eye or nose, show her how to scratch with her knuckles, which may be less likely to carry germs than fingertips. And practice these tactics yourself, too.