Invisible, disease-causing bacteria and viruses lurk all around your home, from the kitchen counters to the living-room rug. Healthy adults have strong immune systems that can fend off many dangerous germs, but babies are at much greater risk. "An infant's immune system is like a new engine straight off the production line," says Terri Rearick, R.N., corporate manager of infection prevention and control at Children's Memorial Hospital, in Chicago. "It's ready to be started but can get overtaxed if pushed to its limits all at once."
Although you've got to keep your child's environment extra-clean, it's a balance. You can't guard against every germ--nor should you, since your baby needs opportunities for his defenses to develop. What, exactly, do you need to do and when? Top experts share a protection plan you can live with.