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Respiratory Problems, Age 11 and Younger - Prevention

It is common for children to develop respiratory problems (such as viral infections) because they are often exposed to other people who have infections and have not built up immunity. There is no sure way to prevent many respiratory illnesses in babies and children. Very young babies are at greater risk for developing complications from respiratory illnesses, so it is important to do what you can to protect them from exposure. The following may help reduce your child's risk for respiratory problems:

  • If you have a respiratory infection, such as a cold or the flu, or if you are caring for someone with a respiratory infection, wash your hands before caring for your child. Hand-washing eliminates the germs on your hands and the spread of germs to your child when you touch your child or touch an object he or she might touch.
  • If your child goes to a day care center, ask the staff to wash their hands often to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Make sure that your child gets all of his or her vaccinations, especially for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) and for Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). For more information, see the topic Immunizations.
  • Breast-feed your baby for at least the first 6 months after birth, if possible. Breast-fed children develop fewer respiratory problems than those who are not breast-fed.
  • If one of your children is sick, separate him or her from other children in the home, if possible. Put the child in a room alone to sleep.
  • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. If you smoke, quit. If you cannot quit, do not smoke in the house or car. Secondhand smoke irritates the mucous membranes in your child's nose, sinuses, and lungs and increases his or her risk for respiratory infections. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking.
  • Avoid giving young children food or objects that may be improperly swallowed and inhaled, such as nuts, popcorn, small candies, or small toys. An inhaled object can lead to a respiratory infection. For more information, see the topic Swallowed or Inhaled Objects.
  • For information on preventing allergies or asthma, see the topic Allergic Rhinitis or Asthma in Children.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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