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Health & Safety

11 Smart Ways to Keep Your Baby Healthy This Winter

Keep colds and flu away with these smart tips

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Most kids come down with eight to ten colds in their first two years of life, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. If you have more than one child, even a perfectly healthy family can suffer from one virus every month. That's a lot of tissues and a lot of missed work and daycare. Here are 11 immunity-boosting tips to help keep your family healthy all winter long.

1. Vaccinate. The flu can be dangerous. Getting the flu vaccine is the first line of defense, says Dr. Ron Marino, DO, MPH, Associate Chair, Pediatrics, Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, NY. Make sure every child over six months gets vaccinated in the fall.

2. No smoking. Children should never be around cigarette smoke, says Dr. Marino. Second-hand smoke greatly compromises breathing and immunity.

3. Dress them well. "You want to dress kids a little warmer than you. But you don't want them to be sweating in there," says Dr. Marino. That's because being hot and sweaty can lead to dehydration, which puts them at greater risk for illness.

4. Remove shoes in the house. When babies crawl on the floor, they're exposed to all the dirt and toxins tracked in from the outside. Take off the shoes, Dr. Marino says.

5. Breastfeed. "Breast milk helps babies stay healthy," says Dr. Marino. If you can manage to nurse through the first year, your baby will have even more immunity.

6. Hydrate. Make sure your baby drinks plenty of breast milk, formula or water and is wetting at least 4 to 6 diapers a day with clear urine. "When you are well hydrated, your mucous membranes and everything in your respiratory tract is well lubricated and running more efficiently," says Dr. Marino.

7. Leave the toys at home. If you can, avoid taking your child's toys or lovies into daycare or public play spaces so they can stay germ-free. 

8. Don't overdo the humidifier. A humidifier can be useful, but not if it isn't completely clean and sterilized each day. "Running a humidifier constantly may encourage unhealthy molds," says Dr. David Elkind, professor emeritus of the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development at Tufts University and author of several books, including Parenting on the Go: Birth to Six, A-Z . Mold is another cause of respiratory problems, so use humidifiers sparingly.

9. Avoid hand sanitizer. Babies who put their hands in their mouths can ingest some alcohol. "Basic rules of sanitation should be followed, but there is no need to use sanitation gels," Dr. Elkind says.

10. Skip the supplements. Some parents swear by vitamins and herbal supplements, but Dr. Elkind says nutrition should be consumed the old-fashioned way: "A healthy diet usually provides most infants with all the protection they need."

11. Let them play. Holding your baby back from socializing due to a fear of germs may do more harm than good. Sure, indoor play spaces have germs, but those germs are not always bad. "Infants need to build up immunities and putting safe items into their mouths can help," says Elkind.