Infants and flu prevention
Q. If babies younger than 6 months shouldn't get flu vaccines, what can parents do to protect them from the illness?
A. The rest of the family can take these steps to protect baby from a flu virus, says pediatrician Alla Shenkman, medical director of PM Pediatrics in Syosset, an urgent care facility open evenings, weekends and holidays:
*People should wash their hands immediately before handling the baby. "It really protects against a lot of germs and viruses," Shenkman says.
*Parents should frequently wipe household surfaces such as doorknobs, kitchen table and faucets with sani-wipes to kill germs on surfaces.
*Older siblings coming home from school should immediately change clothing, and certainly before picking up or playing with the baby, even if they aren't sick. The virus can be on clothing, and if the baby puts his face against the sibling's chest or touches his clothes, germs can be transmitted, Shenkman says. Parents should change after work as well.
*Avoid taking baby to crowded places where she can be exposed to sick people.
*If a parent is sick but must care for baby, wear a mask to reduce the baby's exposure.
*Separate sick older children from the baby as much as possible.
If baby does get the flu, parents should take her to a doctor within 24 hours, Shenkman recommends. The antiviral medication Tamiflu was recently approved by the FDA for babies and should be administered expediently, she says.