The seasons are changing, and in the Western Hemisphere, winter is fast on its way. Many cultures debate the easiest and best way to prevent respiratory illness in a child. Therapeutic mud baths are practiced in various areas of the world, including Europe, Asia and North America. Many health care professionals feel mud baths are helpful to build the immune system. Others recoil at the idea of dousing their child in mud.
Whether or not your child bathes in mud, let’s face it, children have contact with other people. By doing so, the risk of illness increases. A “cold” virus is easy to acquire, despite any prevention techniques you may see. Viruses are passed from child to child easily. The following advice may help prevent illness in your child.
During the first two months of life, do not to place your baby around any adults or children who are sick. You can take your baby out for a walk, but avoid stores and places where sick people may visit. He is working on building his immune system, and in the first two months of life illness may progress quickly. If you will be around people in the first three months of life and you feel contact is inevitable, use a baby sling to carry your baby on your chest. This will minimize unwanted hands on your baby and reduce close contact with others. Definitely don’t pass your baby around to others during this period. Don’t be afraid to pass the hand sanitizer or ask others to wash their hands in warm soapy water before holding your newborn baby. If you are able to breastfeed, do so as long as possible. Breast milk has important chemicals that help reduce your baby’s risk of illness.
After your baby’s two-month check up, if your baby is healthy and vaccines are given, your doctor will typically tell you your baby can be around other people. Still, continue to proceed with caution. The immune system is still building its illness fighting capacity—vaccines do offer good protection but don’t cover all illnesses.
After approximately three months, the immune system is best built through contact with the outside world. Research has shown that your child’s world does not have to be continually sanitized. For example, children who are placed in day care may have less asthma. The proposed reason for this is called the hygiene hypothesis. More industrialized nations, like the United States and Europe, tend to have better access to hygiene prevention, such as frequent hand washing, cleaner homes and facilities, and less crowding of children in one space. The current thinking is that the immune system is better developed by more contact with other children.
A 2008 study published in the European Respiratory Journal showed that children of mothers who lived on a farm during pregnancy had 50% less hay fever (allergies) and eczema (allergic skin). This study suggests that mothers are able to pass immune benefits to their children during pregnancy that has lasting power well beyond birth.
Placing your older baby or child in isolation does not help build the immune system or help stimulate the social skills needed for your baby to develop. However, the more people your child is around, the more likely he is to pick up illness. Illness is a normal part of childhood. Babies in day care will pick up, on average, seven to nine viral infections in a year. Still, responsible prevention of serious illness exists and can be easily instituted. The following list may be helpful for you when deciding to place your child in a person’s home or child care center.
5 Tips for Illness Prevention Outside your Home:
1. Hand washing is your best prevention tool. All children and adults should practice hand washing before eating, after toileting, and after any change of activities. In America and many areas of Europe, hand washing is mandated for childcare center employees and parents attending.
2. Health Care Provider checks. Make sure your child is having regular check ups, and immunizations are current.
3. Sick children stay home and be cared for outside of the well child area. Children with fever, diarrhea, vomiting or any obvious contagious illness should be required to go home. In addition, ensure you will be notified if a child is sick. This will help increase your awareness of any new symptoms your child may exhibit.
4. Food preparation area separated from contact with children and bathrooms. The food preparation area should be clean, and those who prepare the food should wash their hands. Ensure the bathrooms are properly sanitized.
5. Eat a healthy diet. Yes, what our mothers have always told us is true. Have your child eat a well-rounded diet that includes many different fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables have phytochemicals, which are helpful to combat illness and fight off current infection.
Dr. Lisa Lewis has been a practicing pediatrician for 17 years and is currently serving the Fort Worth community at Kid Care Pediatrics. A married mother of two, she has traveled the world extensively and has an interest in medical and parenting philosophies of other countries. Dr. Lewis’s interest is helping families and children enjoy cultured, healthy futures. Dr. Lewis can be found on her website .
Lisa Lewis, MD
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