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How to Keep Your Baby Healthy

So to protect your infant and your family, you need to play defense. Here are some tips on how to keep your baby healthy and how to keep those admirers - or at least their germs -- off your kid.

Make hand washing a rule. The most common way of spreading an infectious disease is by touch. So you should always wash your hands before picking up your baby or preparing food, and after diaper changes, using the bathroom, or walking into the house. Insist that anyone who wants to hold your baby meet the same standards.

Redirect. If you can't stop the hordes from touching your baby, you can exert some control over what they touch. "Parents should ask people to touch or kiss the baby's feet instead of the hands or face," says Altmann. That way, everyone's happy. The admirers get to touch the baby, but their germs are confined to an area of the body that's unlikely to make the baby sick. "That approach usually works until about 9 months," says Altmann. "Around then, kids start sucking on their toes."

Carry hand sanitizer. While experts say that soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs, alcohol-based hand sanitizers work very well too. Always have a bottle with you when you're out and about. If someone insists on touching, ask that they take a dab of it on their hands first to keep your baby healthy. For it to work, people need to rub vigorously for a full 15-20 seconds, says Frenck.

Practice crowd control. "When you've got a newborn, you really don't want to be around a lot of people," Frenck tells WebMD. "There's always the potential that some of them will be sick." So when your baby is small, you may want to avoid large family gatherings and crowded places like malls. Once your baby's a little older -- at least over the 3-month mark -- then you can start being more adventurous.

Screen your guests. People may forget just how vulnerable little babies are to germs. So it won't hurt to remind anyone who's planning a visit that they should stay home if they're sick. Offer to reschedule as soon as they're feeling better. 

Invoke a higher authority. If you're worried that you won't be able to stop a particularly determined relative from kissing your baby's cheeks, cite doctor's orders. "I usually tell parents to blame it on me," says Altmann. "I suggest that they tell people that because their baby is just so small, the pediatrician said that no one should touch him because he might get sick."

Coping with sick sitters. Here's one scenario that parents dread: opening the door to a babysitter to find her pale and sniffling. What's a parent to do when a child-care worker is sick? There's no easy answer. If your baby's in day care, ask the management about their policies. Are teachers supposed to stay home when they're sick? If they do work sick, what extra precautions do they take to protect the kids? One thing to consider when choosing a day care is whether employees get paid sick days. If they don't, the staff is more likely to work sick out of necessity.

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