School-aged kids, especially those in preschool and elementary school, are basically walking petrie dishes. You’re pretty much guaranteed that your child will come bring home multiple colds (or worse) over the course of the year. In fact, preschoolers average about nine colds a year, while kindergartners average 12. Not reassuring numbers to any parent, let alone one with a newborn at home. Babies are particularly vulnerable to germs, as they haven’t yet had a chance to build their immune system.
So what can parents do to help protect the littlest member of the family? We asked Tiffany Fischman, M.D., a general pediatrician at Calabasas Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, for her advice on how to keep your newborn healthy with older siblings in the house.
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A MamasUncut fan asks:
What can you do to keep your baby from getting sick when you have older kids that go to school and bring every sickness home?
Dr. Fischman says:
It’s hard, but good hand washing and a change of clothes can go a long way! I make my older kids take off their school clothes, wash their faces and hands with soap and water and get a fresh set of clothes on before playing with the baby. Honestly, this is good practice even without a newborn in the house. No one wants those germs coming home and young kids have a tendency to wipe their face and noses on their shirts.
I recommend getting your older kids accustomed from the start to bonding with baby by kissing the top of their head or toes rather than hands and face. This way, if they are coming down with something, they’re already in the habit of staying away from baby’s mouth and nose and hands (which babies put in their mouths). Encourage your older kids to keep their own hands out of their mouths and noses and generally away from their faces. This helps to minimize contact with potential germs.
Although it’s never fun to have a sick baby, the most crucial time to protect a baby from infection is during the immediate newborn period, especially the first two months before your baby has received her first full round of vaccines. A fever of 100.4 or above in a newborn under three months, even with no other signs of serious infection, warrants a series of invasive tests including blood work, urine and often a spinal tap.
I recommend all family members living with, or caring for, a newborn have all their vaccines up to date including the annual flu vaccine, and the Tdap vaccine, which protects against whooping cough. Anyone truly sick should avoid close contact with a newborn and keep their distance and kisses to themselves until they are better. And if you do have sick kids at home, stock up on Clorox wipes (or similar) and use them to wipe down door handles, toilets, counters, sink handles — anything your older ones might be touching with less-than-clean hands.
Do you have a question you’d like answered by Dr. Fischman? Submit it to the Mamas Uncut Facebook page with the tag #drfischman. We’ll choose several questions each month to send to her for a reply and we’ll feature it here on the site! You can remain completely anonymous while still getting the information and support you need from other moms who know what it’s like.
All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.
Editorial Director of MamasUncut. Currently back on the East Coast. Most days spent chasing after two young kids and our very patient rescue mutt. Learning that parenting never really gets easier it just gets … different. Love running and water views. Also all the coffee.
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