EVERY parent wants to keep their child healthy.
However, other than our natural instincts regarding safe practices, there is no hard and fast rulebook handed out in the birthing suite about maintaining your bub’s health.
Is an era of trying to remove all bacteria from our lives creating an oversensitive generation that can’t fight off infection? How much "protection" does an infant require to remain healthy?
Paediatrician Theresa Pitts said babies are generally resilient, although a little help-along is also important.
“In the first few months they have extra protection from their mothers antibodies,” Dr Pitts said.
“This tends to wane with time and then it is important to ensure our infants are immunised.”
Simple hygiene is important so our children don’t get sick and also to stop the spread of water and airborne disease.- Dr Theresa Pitts, paediatrician
However, no immunisation program is a catch-all, with sanitary practices still at the forefront of infant health.
“It is important for an infant not to have direct exposure to things like contaminated food or water,” Dr Pitts said.
“There is a discrepancy in mortality rates in countries that have high and low sanitation.
“However, low exposures to germs in the environment may be helpful in building immunity.”
Read the Our Babies 2019 e-mag HERE.
This is the “hygiene hypothesis”, the theory that we shouldn’t completely remove babies from exposure to germs in order to improve their capacity to fight off infections. It is believed a lack of early exposure to infections can be linked to the rise in allergies.
While Dr Pitts said that link is difficult to establish, children should still have some exposure to dirt and germs - in a sensible way.
“The most important thing is to use common sense,” she said.
“Some exposure to germs does help build our immunity and prevent allergy. We need some ‘good’ bacteria on our skin and in our gut.
“We should let our children be exposed to sandpits and dirt, to pets and to other children, to build their immunity.
“However, it is also important to keep them safe, such as ensuring they have their regular immunisations, as well as teaching them and practicing good hygiene, such as regular hand washing, covering their mouth when coughing and blowing noses.
“Simple hygiene is important so our children don’t get sick and also to stop the spread of water and airborne disease.
“As long as this is not practiced in an obsessive manner, children will still develop the immunity they require.”]
To prevent your little one contracting an illness:
- Babies and children should be immunised
- Avoid exposure to contaminated food and water
- Wash hands
- Cover mouth when coughing and sneezing