Caring for a newborn during flu season can be extra stressful. While you can’t prevent your child from ever catching a bug, these tips will help you give it your best shot.
It’s always stressful when your baby gets sick because you feel so awful that he’s suffering. However, it can help to understand how common it is for your little one to catch a bug here and there.
Because babies’ immune systems aren’t as fully developed as those of adults, they tend to get sick very easily. The average baby can catch a cold up to eight times during her first year.
Even though it’s not always a big deal, it can still be scary and upsetting when your little one doesn’t feel well. Plus, you have to worry about the big stuff, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the flu, which can leave babies vulnerable to other infections.
What to Check for When Your Baby’s Sick
Try as you might, your baby is going to catch a cold. Actually, you want him to because it builds up his immune system.
If a baby doesn’t get sick during his first year of life, it usually means he’ll be sick all the time in preschool or daycare. Here’s how you can tell if it’s just a cold, or something more serious you should call the doctor about:
- Fever: If your newborn has a fever, you should treat her immediately and, in some cases, call the doctor. If she’s 3-months-old or younger and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 or more, call the doctor right away. A fever can be very serious for a baby this small. If she’s older than 3 months and has a low fever, give her some children’s Tylenol or ibuprofen. If the fever doesn’t go away or she exhibits some of the other symptoms below, call the doctor.
- Vomiting or diarrhea: Not to be confused with spitting up, vomiting is more forceful and tends not to be as watery. If your baby vomits, has diarrhea, or doesn’t wet his diaper a few times a day, something could be wrong. If you notice blood in his stool, you should call your doctor.
- No interest in eating: Newborns should want to eat several times a day and breastfed babies sometimes want to nurse every hour. If your baby is suddenly disinterested in food or hasn’t been eating much, see a doctor.
- Extreme weakness: See a doctor if you notice that your baby is unusually lethargic, has a weak suck when nursing, feels limp and floppy, or has a weak cry.
- A change in color: If his face, tongue, or lips look blue, seek medical attention immediately.
- Difficulty breathing: Respiratory distress should never be taken lightly. If you notice your child is struggling to breathe, wheezing, breathing rapidly, or her chest wall is pulling in when she breathes, see a doctor.
- Nonstop crying: You know your baby’s temperament. If he’s extra fussy and crying a lot—especially to the point that he’s having trouble sleeping—consult your doctor.
Remember, you should always take your child to the doctor if you feel like you need to. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
Now, let’s dig into some simple things you can do to improve your baby’s chances of making it through flu season without catching a serious illness.
Stay Up to Date on Vaccines
Regardless of your child’s age, you should stay up to date with her vaccine schedule, especially for things like whooping cough and rotavirus, which can badly infect babies.
If your baby is 6 months or older, check with your doctor about the flu shot. It’s the best way to prevent the flu, which you absolutely want to do. The flu can be serious for babies and quickly lead to other life-threatening conditions, like pneumonia.
Get Your Flu Shot
Speaking of flu shots, you should get one, too, as should anyone who spends a lot of time with your child. When you’re a parent, the flu shot doesn’t just protect you from getting sick; it protects your little ones, too.
This is the best way to prevent the flu from entering your household.
Wash Your Hands Often
It sounds simple enough, but so many people forget to wash their hands enough—even when they’re around a baby a lot.
If you go to the store or any public place, always wash your hands with soap and water before you touch your baby.
Of course, you should also wash your hands after you use the bathroom or after you touch other people. You can wash baby’s hands, too, or carry some hand and face wipes with when you’re both out.
Change Your Clothes When You Come Home
Washing your hands before touching your baby is important, but so is changing your clothes. Lots of icky germs and bacteria could be hanging out on there, especially if you commute via public transportation.
Change into something new and clean before snuggling with your little one.
Regularly Clean Pacifiers and Toys
Babies put everything in their mouths and drop stuff all the time. Keep an eye on their toys and pacifiers and clean them all the time.
You should clean a pacifier whenever it’s dropped on the floor. Some studies have shown that putting a pacifier in your own mouth before you give it to your baby can build up his immune system and prevent allergies.
Also clean his toys with wipes or soap and water—especially if they’ve been out of the house or another child has played with them.
Enforce a No Kissing Policy
You might assume most people know not to kiss your tiny newborn on the face, but you’d be wrong. A lot of people will kiss your baby, even in the middle of flu season.
It’s a quick way to get germs all over his face, which is definitely not what you want. Ask anyone who is close to or holding your child not to kiss him. Even if the person doesn’t have any visible signs of a cold or illness, it doesn’t mean he or she isn’t carrying germs that could infect your baby.
And if someone doesn’t listen to you, don’t let her hold the baby!
Consider Staying Home
The annoying truth is taking your baby out to crowded, public places during the winter isn’t really the best idea. You have no control over the germs around or the people spreading them.
As isolating and frustrating as it might be, the safest thing to do is stay home. If you do have to take your child out, keep her in a stroller with a blanket over her.
Make Sure Visitors Don’t Have Colds
Your child can’t talk, so you have to advocate for him. If someone wants to come over and visit, that’s fine. But do make sure you ask if they’ve had a cold, or if they’ve been sick recently. If they answer yes to either of these questions, ask them to wait and come over when they’re feeling better.
You might also want to avoid allowing other little kids around your baby, if possible. Toddlers carry tons of germs and don’t understand hygiene, so they can easily spread things to a baby.
Make Sure Baby Gets Enough Sleep
Ensuring your baby sleeps a lot isn’t just for your sanity, it’s also for his health. Babies need sleep to grow, develop, and stay healthy.
If you’re really struggling with your child’s sleep habits, be sure to get on some sort of sleep training method or speak to your doctor.
Keep Yourself Healthy, Too
You can worry all you want about your baby catching something out in public or from someone else, but don’t forget you can make her sick, too.
If you focus on keeping yourself healthy, it’ll be easier to keep your baby healthy, too. You can boost your immunity by getting plenty of rest, eating healthy foods, taking supplements if needed, and always washing your hands.