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Can baby pick up germs from other kids' books?
Q: How do I keep my children's books clean and in good condition? I'm due to have another baby soon and I was hoping to use the same books my older children enjoyed, but wonder if they are sanitary enough to re-use.
A: Lauren, it's good that you're thinking about reading to your baby from the start. It's also good that you're thinking about keeping your baby healthy by reducing her exposure to germs and illnesses. Although most childhood illnesses are spread by direct contact with another child or adult who is sick, young children can also pick up germs by touching objects and putting the objects or their hands in their mouths. And we know that babies love to touch books and put them in their mouths.

Most germs prefer warm, moist surfaces and are unlikely to survive on a book for more than a few weeks. But some germs, such as parasites that can cause gastrointestinal illness, could survive for longer periods of time. If your older children have been healthy, your books are probably sanitary enough to re-use. But if you want to be extra safe, you can follow these procedures for sanitizing the books:

1. Use soap and water to scrub off any dirt and grime.

2. Use a solution of chlorine bleach to sanitize the books: 1 tablespoon of bleach in 1 quart of water. For all-plastic books, submerge the books in a basin of the bleach solution and then air dry them; for books with waterproof cardboard or paper covers, wipe the cover with the bleach solution and then air dry.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician