Kari, it’s good that you’re thinking about how to prevent the spread of illnesses among children and other family members. You might have noticed that when one person in the family gets sick, others may also. Most illnesses are caused by germs—microscopic viruses and bacteria that spread through the air and by touching. Here are some things you can do to reduce the spread of germs and illnesses:
- Clean toys: Infants and toddlers tend to put toys in their mouths. Your idea of cleaning your baby’s toys after an illness is good, and you might even think about doing it more frequently. The easiest way to clean plastic toys that don’t have batteries is to run them through the dishwasher. If you don’t have a dishwasher, wash the toys with soap and water, then dip them in a bleach solution (1 tablespoon bleach to 1 quart of water) and let them air dry in a rack. For toys with batteries, just clean the outside with soap and water, then wipe with the bleach solution. You can clean fabric toys in the laundry.
- Wash hands frequently: Handwashing is probably the most important way to reduce the spread of illnesses. Be sure to wash your hands after going to the bathroom, after nappying your baby, after wiping noses, and after handling raw meat and poultry, as well as before preparing meals and feeding your baby. Remember to also wash your baby’s hands after nappying and before eating, because he puts them in his mouth a lot.
- Avoid kissing your baby on the mouth: Most common illnesses such as colds, flu, herpes cold sores, and diarrhea can spread through germs in the mouth. It’s safest to kiss on the forehead or cheek.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow: Although you probably learned to “cover your mouth when you cough,” your saliva and germs spray onto your hands. If you don’t wash your hands right away, you spread the germs when you touch people and objects afterwards. It’s better to keep your hands clean by coughing and sneezing into your elbow.
- Consider having a no-shoes policy in your home: Since your baby spends a lot of time crawling around the floor, consider suggesting that family members and guests leave their shoes at the front door.
- Make sure your baby gets fresh air: Fresh air is healthy for children and adults, even in cold weather. One reason that children tend to get sick during the winter is that they spend more time indoors where they’re exposed to everyone’s germs. It’s healthiest to open windows for a short time every day, and take your baby outdoors at least once a day.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.