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Keeping Baby Healthy: Washing Hands and Getting Shots

Instead of fretting about germs, what you need to do is take some simple, sensible precautions against them. These won’t stop your kids from getting sick -- not by a long shot -- but they should make it happen a little less frequently.

  • Washing hands. The most common way to catch an infectious disease is by touch. The hands pick up germs and then transport them to the eyes or mouth. So if you can just keep your kid’s hands clean, you greatly reduce the chances that he will get sick. Although soap and water is always preferred, alcohol-based hand sanitizers work well, too. Just make sure you use them correctly. “You need to rub your hands together vigorously for about 20 seconds with hand sanitizers,” Frenck says.
  • Getting vaccinations. Don’t forget that protecting your kids against germ-based illnesses isn’t all about soap and hand sanitizer. “The most important way that parents can protect their children from very serious illnesses is to follow the recommended vaccine schedule,” Altmann says.

Keeping Baby Healthy: Household Cleaning and Disinfecting

Getting the germs off surfaces in your home can be an important way of preventing illness. Household cleaning and disinfecting are both options.



Household cleaning with soap and water dislodges the germs from surfaces and washes them away. Disinfecting -- with substances like bleach -- actually kills the germs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, either approach is fine for normal household cleaning. However, if you’re particularly concerned -- or if someone else in the house is sick -- you may want to go with disinfecting, which can be more thorough.



So where should you start your household cleaning and disinfecting? Two areas are crucial -- kitchens and bathrooms.

  • The kitchen. Food-borne illnesses are always a risk, so take special care that surfaces in your kitchen are clean.

    Laura A. Jana, MD, a pediatrician in Omaha, Neb., and coauthor of Heading Home with Your Newborn, recommends wiping down kitchen surfaces and sinks daily with a disinfectant. “You want to have your counters clean enough that you can put food on them,” she says. Obviously, you should clean or disinfect immediately after you’ve been preparing raw meat, poultry or fish. Cleaning the floor regularly is a good idea too. You never know what might have dripped onto it when you were preparing dinner. Make sure that what you’re using to clean is clean itself. If you’re washing with a dirty sponge or rag, you could just be spreading germs around the kitchen.
  • The bathroom. The bathroom is inevitably one of the most germ-filled spots in the house. So make sure to clean or disinfect the counter, sink, toilet, and floor. Be especially vigilant in your household cleaning if a family member has been sick with vomiting or diarrhea. Some stomach viruses are harder to kill than common cold and flu viruses.

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