With the arrival of winter unfortunately comes the arrival of flu season and we are in the heart of it in February. Before having children, you may not have been too concerned about the inevitable arrival of the influenza but that has likely changed now that you are caring for your precious and vulnerable infant. Children under the age of five, and specifically babies, are at the highest risk for serious flu related complications. Flu complications ranging from pneumonia and dehydration to the dangerous worsening of chronic conditions like asthma, heart disease and sinus problems can send children to the hospital and in rare circumstances even result in death. Children under the age of six months are at the greatest risk of these life-threatening complications and for that reason need the greatest protection. Here are a few a ways you can help protect your new baby from the flu virus this winter.
- Take extra special precautions to shield baby from unnecessary exposure to germs during the first two months when they are particularly vulnerable. Avoid crowded places like shopping malls, grocery stores and restaurants and use a light blanket to cover baby in the stroller when out and about. This will prevent well-meaning admirers from getting too close or worse yet, touching your baby.
- Abide by a strict no sick visitors’ policy. Guests should be symptom and fever free for at least 24 hours before visiting you and your new babe.
- Hand wash, hand wash, hand wash! Not only can hand washing protect you from all the nasty germs during cold and flu season, it can prevent you from spreading those germs to your precious and defenseless little one. Use warm water and soap and lather your hands thoroughly for 20 seconds to ensure they are clean.
- Keep disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer on hand when you are out and about. Disinfect surfaces like shopping carts before using and use hand sanitizer before handling your baby to be extra safe.
- Breastfeed! Breastfeeding provides your baby with valuable antibodies and immune support to protect him from many different illnesses and infections. To learn more about the immune system benefits of breastfeeding, check out this article.
- Stay current on your own vaccines.
- In the unfortunate event that you or your partner does come down with the flu, do your best to minimize contact with your baby until you are better. Take extra precautions to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands and use sanitizer frequently. Also, try not to touch your nose, mouth and eyes to prevent the spread of germs.
- Stay hydrated: This keeps mucous membranes moist, which lowers the chance of a cold or flu taking hold in your nose or lungs. Make it a goal to drink 60-80oz of water daily.
- Supplement with Vitamin D: Vitamin D is an important player in overall healthy immune function, but it's also an effective antimicrobial agent in its own right, producing 200 to 300 different antimicrobial peptides in your body that kill bacteria, viruses and fungi.
- Give your body the fuel it needs to function optimally, which means being healthy enough to fight off infectious viruses. Do this by avoiding refined sugars, grains and processed foods.
- Hot drinks and honey. Any warming drink can help soothe a sore throat, suppress a cough, and calm the overall commotion of a cold or flu. Honey coats the throat and relieves irritation while its antioxidant and antimicrobial properties go to work fighting viral infections. Try Buhner’s Colds and Flu Tea: 2 tablespoons ginger juice, juice of 1/4 lime, pinch cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon honey, and hot water.
Taking these extra measures to ensure that your family stays healthy during flu season can help prevent your baby from suffering from serious and potentially life-threatening complications. For questions about protecting your baby during cold and flu season and for all inquiries about natural birth, contact us at Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. We wish you a happy and healthy winter season!