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What Puts You at Risk for the Common Cold?

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Maybe you're one of the lucky few. You have to think hard to remember when you last got sick. But for the rest of us, two to four colds a year is pretty much the norm. So what gives?

Your age and the company you keep are a big part of your risk. But whether you're young or old, there are simple things you can do to get the upper hand against germs.

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Colds and Your Newborn

Your little one is at higher risk for colds and other infections for the first 4 to 6 weeks. That's because his immune system -- the body's defense against germs -- isn't working at full speed yet.

To help your newborn from getting sick, breastfeed him if possible. It gives him antibodies that fight germs. If you bottle-feed, sterilize the bottles and nipples between feedings. To do this, boil them or put them in the dishwasher.

Keep his formula or breast milk in the refrigerator until you need it. Then warm the milk and give it to your baby right away, before bacteria have a chance to grow. Throw out any unused portions after each feeding. Your baby's saliva has germs which multiply quickly. And wash your hands before and after you feed your baby or change his diaper.

Keep your little one away from anyone who's sick. If possible, avoid crowds and public transportation when you go out with your baby.

Young Kids

If your toddler or preschooler seems to have one cold after another, you are not alone. Most you kids get five to seven -- or more -- colds each year.

And that's not all. Ear infections are common, especially for kids with brothers and sisters or who spend time with their friends in day care.

For this age group, there's no big mystery about how colds spread. If your kid touches his runny nose and then puts his hands on a toy, those cold germs are still around when another child picks it up.

Follow these tips to help keep your youngster healthy:

  • Wash his toys with soap and water and then let them air-dry. Use a dishwasher if it won't mess them up.
  • Wash pacifiers often with soap and water.
  • Regularly wipe your kid's hands with a clean washcloth and warm water.
  • Make sure his hands get washed before eating and after playtime.
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