If you’re the parent to a little one under the age of one, cold and flu season might make you want to go into hibernation to stay away from the germs and keep your baby healthy. UnityPoint Health Nurse Practitioner Holly Kelson says that’s understandable. A baby’s risk of life-threatening consequences from the flu are very real and scary. She’s got some advice for new parents on how to protect your baby and handle the flu season with grace as well as tips for everyone else on etiquette to consider before requesting to cuddle a squishy new baby.
Why is the Flu Worse for Babies?
Infants have an immature immune system due to their limited exposure to viruses and bacteria. Also, any baby less than six months can’t get a flu vaccine. That’s why it’s important for everyone around the baby to get a flu shot, especially the immediate family. Kelson suggests the family should focus on staying healthy, so the new baby is put at less risk.
How to Handle Family Members During Cold and Flu Season
No matter what season it is, it’s best to ask anyone who’s holding a new baby to wash their hands, or use hand sanitizer before touching the baby. But, if any parent feels uneasy about a visitor’s health, speak up.
“You’d be surprised at how many people ask me if it’s OK for them to tell a family member with a runny nose not to touch or kiss their baby,” Kelson says. “Don’t feel bad about saying, ‘I appreciate if you don’t hug and kiss my baby.’ You know what’s best for baby.”
In general, it’s best not to ever kiss a baby close to his/her mouth, or any body part they can put in their mouth. New parents can always suggest friends and family place any loving smooches on the back of the baby’s head, as an extra safety measure.
How to Handle the Public During Flu Season
Kelson says there are cute tags anyone can purchase, or make, to put on car seats with phrases like, “Please don’t touch or kiss me. I’m so new.” She thinks those are great options for when you’re out and about in public places.
“Simply put, if you are out and see a baby you don’t know, you should not go up to touch them. You don’t know them, and you are not able to wash your hands,” Kelson says.
Symptoms that Could be Dangerous
Fever, body aches, diarrhea, coughing or sneezing, sore throat and respiratory-related symptoms should be considered as major warning signs and reasons to stay away from a baby. Kelson says even if an adult thinks it’s just allergies or a sinus infection, if he/she doesn’t know, it’s best to just stay away.
“It can be hard for parents, but please make those limitations. No one sick can hold the baby, and no one sick can be in the house,” Kelson says.