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When Germ Precautions Don't Work

Of course, no matter what you do, your baby is going to get sick anyway. It just happens.

When it does, and you're cradling your fussy, sniffling infant, it's easy to blame yourself. Oh, if only I had wiped down that shopping cart more thoroughly! If only I'd kicked Aunt Jeannie out of the house as soon as I heard her cough!

But don't beat yourself up. Germs are everywhere, and there's just no way to avoid them. The best you can do is practice sensible precautions and accept that you can't always keep your baby healthy.

Don't get too preoccupied with blaming other people either. While you might be convinced that your snotty-nosed nephew is responsible, the odds are quite high it was someone else -- your neighbor who wasn't even showing symptoms yet, or some person you never met who left germs behind on the checkout counter.

Caring for a Sick Infant

For now, you need to shift gears: you have to protect other people -- especially other small children. If your child's in day care, that means following the day care's policy about sickness. Yes, it can be terribly inconvenient to keep your kid home from day care and miss work. But it's your responsibility to protect other kids, just as you hope that other parents will feel obligated to protect yours.

In the meantime, when you're stuck at home with a sick kid, remember that this is a parental rite of passage.

"Young kids get sick all the time, especially if they're around other babies," says Altmann. "They catch something, they're sick for a week, they feel better for a week or two, and then they catch something else. It happens with all my patients and it happened in my own house with my kids too."

The good news is that their immune systems will get stronger with time. It won't be like this forever.

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