Germ Warfare: 6 Tips for New Parents
As a new parent, you're nervous that your newborn might catch a cold or, worse, chickenpox or influenza. You're constantly trying to sanitize and disinfect everything from the pacifier to stuffed animals. If this sounds familiar, you're fighting the war on germs—something parents everywhere have been doing for years.
Despite your best efforts, though, it's impossible to safeguard your child from getting sick completely. Most babies and toddlers become ill several times a year, according to experts, and to some extent, it's important that their bodies encounter viruses so they can build up antibodies and become less prone to illness as children and adults.
That said, to keep your little one healthy without going through a bottle of antibacterial spray each day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends these tried and true tips:
1. Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.
What's more, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth completely. Teach your child these habits from as early an age as possible to reduce the spread of germs
2. Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands.
It's one of the most effective and most overlooked ways to stop germs from spreading. Be sure to wash them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and always clean your hands before you eat or prepare food and after you use the bathroom or change a diaper.
3. Clean your house.
Periodically wipe down frequently handled objects around the house, such as toys, doorknobs, light switches, sink fixtures, and flushing handles on toilets. Pay special attention to the kitchen and bathroom areas.
4. Get vaccinated.
Vaccinating your children will help to prevent them from catching certain diseases, such as the flu. Children should get their first immunizations before they're 2 months old.
5. Be careful with pets.
While pets can provide love and companionship, they can also spread diseases. Have your pets routinely cared for by a veterinarian, and keep their immunizations up to date. Clean any litter boxes daily, and never allow your child to play where your pets go to the bathroom.
6. Don't go overboard.
When cleaning, keep in mind that antibacterial soap and water usually work fine. They may not kill all the germs that can lead to sickness, but they can reduce the amount of bacteria on an object. Too much disinfectant, on the other hand, can be a bad thing, interfering with your child's ability to recognize and respond to bacteria and viruses, according to a study published in the March 2004 Annals of Internal Medicine.
Finally, keep in mind that it's impossible to live a totally germ-free life and that's okay. Over the past century, protection against infectious diseases through antibiotics, vaccines, water purification, sanitation, and hygiene has dramatically improved our health and life expectancy. So, instead of stressing over every little germ, use that time to play with your child—years from now, those memories will be all that matters.
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