Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Winter Woe: Germs are Everywhere

Winter is prime time for viruses -- and with her immature immune system, your baby is basically a sitting duck. Aside from staying up-to-date on vaccinations, the best way to protect her is to limit her exposure. Thoroughly and frequently scrub your hands with soap for 20 seconds under warm running water, then rinse well. In a pinch, you can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (look for one that's 60 to 95 percent isopropanol or ethanol), but it's not quite as effective as washing. Sanitizer can be toxic, so don't use it on your tot's hands and keep it out of reach.

Because public places are rife with viruses, keep your infant close to home, if possible, during her first eight weeks, when she's most vulnerable. "If you need to run to the store or can't bear to miss your friend's holiday party, stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who has cold symptoms," Dr. Shu advises. Think twice before letting acquaintances touch your sweetie, but if they must, ask them to wash their hands first.

Another way to ward off bugs: "Continue breastfeeding as long as possible," Dr. Hersey says. Breast milk supplies your child with antibodies that can help her fight illnesses.

Winter babies do require extra cautions, but remember the upside: You have the perfect excuse to stay home, a new little someone to snuggle as the snow drifts down -- and months to tone up before swimsuit season.

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