Keeping Your Premature Baby Healthy During the Winter Months
Premature babies are at a higher risk of getting a cold of flu during the winter months. Because of their immature immune systems fighting off the flu virus or cold symptoms are imperative for the newborn. It can become a challenge for most parents if there are a number of other family members that are sick and in contact with the baby.
Constant contact with others that are visiting your home may pose a threat to your newborn. Limit visitors that have small children or work with other small children, such as day care and preschool children.
How to protect your preemie
The best way to protect your preemie is to make sure everyone who is six months or older is up to date on their vaccinations. Flu shots are advised through your physician or pediatrician. Regular doctor visits for everyone in the home that are prone to colds and flu symptoms.
Personal hygiene for all family members is important. Washing your hands with soap and water after using the toilet, playing and sharing toys, or petting your pet. If someone else in the home has a cold, make sure they wash their hands after sneezing or coughing. Try and keep all runny noses clean. Little kids have a habit of wiping their nose with the back of their hand and then touching their eyes and mouth. The use of over-the-counter sanitizers and facial tissue can be placed in every room for easier access.
It may be hard to keep your home sanitized for your newborn, but keeping all rooms as germ free as possible is necessary. Good air circulation helps during the winter months when most homes are shut and air tight. If there is a possibility of mold in the home, seek the advice of a professional to have it removed.
If you must leave your home for errands or a personal visit to the doctor, have someone watch your preemie. It is a good idea to avoid grocery stores, shopping malls, schools, large family gatherings, and other indoor public places with your preemie. If there is no immediate reason to travel during the winter months, avoid the use of airplanes or trains. Your preemie is at a greater risk of catching a cold or flu if exposed to the virus in an airtight environment.
Steps to take if your preemie has a cold or the flu
If you know that your preemie has the flu, contact his pediatrician over the phone and ask if there is something he can prescribe for your baby. Most doctor's offices are full of sniffling, sneezing, and coughing kids. If you must take him in, do so. If there is a "well" or "sick" area in the doctor's office, be sure that you are steered to the appropriate side. If your preemie is congested keep him in an inclined position most of the day to help with the congestion.
Most preemies who catch colds or the flu will bounce back with no problems. One of the important symptoms to be concerned about is wheezing/crackling in the chest. One of the pediatrician's concerns is about your baby's lungs when they're premature.
Another risk that your preemie may be exposed to is respiratory synctial virus (RSV). Respiratory synctial virus can be devastating for premature infants. Although the virus causes a bad cold in healthy adults and children, it can cause difficulty breathing in preemies and is the number one cause of rehospitalization. It’s very important that you understand the risk, take prevention steps and also be aware of the symptoms and contact your child’s pediatrician as soon as possible. Symptoms may include, persistent coughing or wheezing, high fever, rapid, difficult, or gasping breaths, extreme fatigue, or difficulty in feeding.
As a mother of a premature baby, if you have a mild cold, it is very unlikely that you would need to stay away from your own child unless he is very sick or extremely fragile. Newborn babies seldom seem to catch infections from their mother. However, do what you can to keep germs to a minimum.
The most important thing is to be sure everyone involved, including yourself, are proactive in using the tools to fight off germs, know the risks, and get enough rest.
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