How Do I Keep My Baby from Getting Sick?

Happy BabyColds and coughs are best avoided in babies especially during the cold and influenza season. These respiratory tract infections are spread by contact with infected mucus and secretions. They are inhaled or spread by direct contact with the eyes, nose and mouth.

Keep baby away from sick people. This is harder than it sounds because people can be infectious before they show any signs of being sick. Little kids are sick once or twice a month, especially during the cooler months, so they’re pretty  much contagious 24/7.

Going outside isn’t a problem–dress baby for the weather with a hat–but avoid spending time in small, crowded spaces. Infected droplets spray three feet with each sneeze and cough: best to stay well away. At home, try to keep baby in a separate room from people coughing and sneezing. There is some data that says that over-dry air allows infected droplets to stay airborne: consider a cool mist vaporizer or humidifier.

Anyone handling the baby should wash their hands. If you are sick, swap out your shirt or top if you have sneezed or coughed on it before picking baby up. Consider wearing a mask if you are sneezing and coughing and don’t have anyone else to help you with the baby.

Babies six months and older should get a flu shot to help protect them from this serious infection. Parents, siblings, family and caregivers should also be immunized to avoid bringing the infection into the home. Eat healthy, rest, and exercise to stay well.

Call the pediatrician if you baby has a fever or a cough. Babies who are breathing fast, working hard to breathe or having difficulty breathing need to be seen.

About Lisa M. Asta, MD

Lisa M. Asta, M.D. is board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, for which she is also a Media Representative (she has been interviewed for “Kids Health” on Health Radio, and quoted in Parenting Magazine, USA Today, and the New York Times, among other publications). She is a Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Francisco and past pediatric chair at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek. She graduated from Temple University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Asta is also a writer whose fiction has appeared in Inkwell, Philadelphia Stories, Schuylkill, and Zeniada. Her essays have appeared in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Hippocrates, the San Jose Mercury News, and The New Physician Magazine. She is an occasional contributor to KQED public radio’s Perspectives series, and has written articles for Bay Area Parent, Valley Parent, Parents’ Press, and Parents Express, as well as online at,, and She wrote a chapter in The Field Guide to the Normal Newborn, ed. Gary Emmet, M.D. currently has two how-to videos for parents in production which feature Dr. Asta. For more on Dr. Asta’s writing, visit
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