Safeguarding babies from common ailments

Reviewed on : 26 January 2016

Parents are responsible for ensuring a baby’s well being by keeping the infant well wrapped, ensuring timely feeds and not letting anyone handle the baby without first washing their hands. Though sometimes parents may go over the top protecting their newborn, the fact remains that babies do tend to fall sick more often than others. In the nascent stage, when the baby’s immunity is yet to develop, it is very common for them to catch infections like the seasonal flu or a cold.

Here are a few tips to keep your baby safe from common illnesses.

  • Ensure adequate rest– Since babies need to feed regularly and frequently and this often hinders them from getting a sound sleep. Babies can quickly fall sick when they are not well rested. Along with optimum health, sleep is also an important factor for their proper growth and development. Incomplete sleep doesn’t just make them irritated, but also leads to other discomforts like loss of appetite and poor bowel movements. So to keep your baby healthy, make sure that he or she isn’t just getting a good amount of sleep at night but also during most of the day.
  • Provide exposure to fresh and clean air- Sometimes, to keep their baby safe from outside cold air, parents tend to keep the windows in the room tightly shut. In a closed or poorly ventilated room, the polluted air inside simply keeps circulating. Due to the baby’s poorly developed immunity, a constant exposure to allergens like dust, smoke (e.g. from mosquito repellent coils etc.), pollens or your pet’s hair can easily trigger an allergic reaction.  To ensure that your baby breathes in clean air, keep your baby’s room well ventilated and free from airborne irritants. Also expose your baby to fresh air for some period of time every day.
  • Take care of proper hydration- For babies up to six months, breastfeeding is sufficient to meet all their fluid needs, as long as they do not have diarrhea or frequent vomiting. But after the age of six months you need to make sure that apart from feeds, your baby also gets sufficient fluids. A proper hydration is important not only for the baby’s normal activities, but also for his or her overall fitness and well being. In case of frequent diarrhea or vomiting, where excess fluid may be lost, immediately consult your doctor to give ORS (Oral Rehydration Solution) to the baby. It is to be noted that while some people try making ORS at home, at least for administering to a baby, it is highly recommended to buy a WHO approved ORS and prepare/administer it as per the provided guidelines. An inappropriate proportion of salt and sugar in a homemade solution can aggravate the problem in babies and lead to further dehydration.
  • Add variety to your child’s diet- Children can be picky eaters, but you have to outsmart them through variety and creativity when preparing their meals. Try adding vegetables and fruits in the baby food as soon as possible. This will not just help meet their daily recommended intake of vitamin and minerals, but also help them to develop taste for normal food items as they grow.
  • Keep the baby’s airways always clear- Nasal secretions or mild cold tend to block an infant’s airways and not paying attention to this, while laying them to sleep, can lead to serious consequences.  When putting your baby to sleep, do make sure that he or she is breathing properly. Cross check by putting your finger in front of the nostril and listen closely for uneven breathing or any wheezing sounds. Never let your baby go to sleep with a ragged breathing and if changing the sleeping position does not clear the airways try other simple interventions mentioned elsewhere in this article.
  • Saline drops for mild airway blockages– Saline solution is extremely effective to clear mildly blocked airways in babies and children. Saline solution causes the blood vessels in the nose to contract and dilutes the mucus. This reduces swelling in the sinus area, relieving nasal congestion almost immediately. However, you need to take some precautions while administering saline drops. First wash your hands properly with soap and water. Then take the appropriate dose of saline in the nasal dropper and cradle your baby in your left arm (or vice-versa if you are left-handed) since a couch arm to keep your baby steady can make this easier. Place the dropper close to the opening of the baby’s nostrils, but do not to touch the dropper to the nose. Squeeze the dropper bulb gently to administer the required dosage and hold the baby for about five minutes to allow the drops to flow into the nasal passage. If the baby starts to cough put him or her immediately in the sitting position.
  • Steam inhalation- Steam inhalation is the best option to clear a blocked nose or chest congestion. However, already irritated with a clogged nose and congestion, babies tend to get restless during steam inhalation and may unknowingly harm themselves during the process unless extra caution and, if required, adequate medical supervision is undertaken.

Many common items found in our kitchen, like honey, ginger or black pepper are highly effective in strengthening immunity and preventing common infections like cold and cough. The regular inclusion of small quantity of these in the diets of babies, who are old enough to consume them, can ensure their general well-being. Please however DO NOT include honey in any form in the diet of babies who are less than one year old as honey may sometimes be contaminated with spores of the bacteria Clostridium Botulinum and this can cause a serious form of blood poisoning called infant botulism. Symptoms appear usually between 3 and 30 days and include severe constipation (which could also have other causes), absence of facial expressions, weak sounds, weak and decreased movements, drooling with poor feeding and breathing problems. Timely medical intervention can enable effective treatment of Infant botulism.

So while simple precautions and preventive measures can help protect your baby against common ailments, do not use them as curative measures and consult your doctor immediately in case your baby falls ill. Please administer any medications to the baby only in accordance with proper medical advice received from a qualified medical practitioner.