Hand washing is an important hygiene step both for your children, but also for you as a responsible parent. From the moment you have your baby, you must take extra care to ensure that you don't pass on infections unnecessarily, or indeed let anyone else pass on germs. There are lots of germs that can be passed from touch including common cold, infectious diarrhea and flu, including the strains of swine flu circulating the world at the moment.
Don't be embarrassed if you want friends and family to wash their hands before handling your baby - it may seem trivial but there's nothing silly about such a request, and no one could consider it rude if they really think through the consequences. If you are embarrassed about asking, just say that your health visitor or paediatrician insists on this level of hygiene.
Always wash your hands after changing your baby, and as children grow older and go to the toilet themselves, make sure that they always wash their hands. Lead by example and make sure that you always wash your own hands after going to the toilet, and your children will follow suit. Make sure that your children can reach the sink - buy them a plastic step so that they can reach the bowl and the taps, and buy them kids' soap in a squeezy dispenser - this will make hand washing more fun and encourage them in the pursuit of cleanliness!
The threat of a resurgence in swine flu (caused by the H1N1 virus) adds another compelling reason to support breast feeding in babies over formula milk. It is widely accepted that babies who are breastfed suffer illness less badly than babies who are not, and fall ill less often too. Breast milk passes antibodies on to your baby which gives them a natural immune boost over formula fed babies, and swine flu is no different from any other viral illness in this respect. If you fall ill with swine flu then you should take precautions to try to prevent passing it on to your baby; your doctor may even recommend that you wear a face mask during feeding which is obviously disheartening but will only be for a limited time. However, you should continue to feed your baby breast milk as best as possible, express milk if it makes it easier.
Few parents will not be concerned about the continuing global spread of swine flu, or H1N1 virus to give it its proper name. Already swine flu has led to the deaths of a number of babies and toddlers and there is every reason that parents will be concerned. Governments around the world are issuing advice, and it is worth heeding some simple precautions to minimise the risk to your own children.
Key advice is to ensure that you catch sneezes with tissues and dispose of them straight away. This is simple advice during any cold or flu season. You and your children should also wash your hands after sneezing, and after going to the toilet - again advice that sits well under normal conditions too. Advice is also that you should NOT be tempted to hold 'swine flu parties'. When chicken-pox hits your community, it is not uncommon to expose children to sufferers in order that they catch it to get it 'over and done with' and build lifelong immunity. Swine flu comes with no guarantees that immunity now will protect against future mutations of the H1N1 virus, and governments are urging to contain the flu spread as best as possible.
If your child appears to be sneezing and have a cold, don't panic - swine flu is a classic flu and if your child has it, you will know it. Symptoms are shaking chills, high temperature and fever - hot and cold flushes - and muscle aches and pains. Flu is followed by a cough and sore throat later. If you think your children have caught the flu then of course, do seek urgent medical advice - there are good treatments in Tamiflu and Relenza that will help reduce the period of attack from the flu, and most of us, toddlers included, will fight the flu naturally with no long term harm.
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