As mercury dips, doctors at Columbia Asia Hospitals, Ahmedabad advocate precautions and extra care for infants
Ahmedabad: With the temperature plummeting down across north India, it is a time to protect you against winter-related illnesses and allergies. However, if you have a newborn baby or infant at home, you must exercise even greater caution.
Doctors at Columbia Asia Hospitals say that unlike adults, babies are yet to develop acquired immunity for several infections. At the same time, infants tend to lose heat faster than adults, and have limited ability to cope with the cold.
“In case of infants, we come across two kinds of parents. First are unaware about the ways to protect babies against the cold; second are overprotective.
A lot of parents are concerned over the possibility that exposure to cold might cause hypothermia, frostbite or pneumonia in babies. However, most are unaware of the fact that it is not the cold temperature that is the biggest threat but viral infections prevalent in this season. Prevention has to be both against cold temperature as well as viruses,” says Dr. Amruta Thakkar, Consultant Pediatrics, Columbia Asia Hospital, Ahemdabad.
The common perception is that exposure to cold temperature causes flu or viral infections in winters. Truth is that cold temperature does not put babies at more risk for a viral infection; coming in contact with infected individuals does. This is why attendants of babies are advised additional precautionary measures to maintain good hygiene levels around babies.
Notably, it is absolutely normal for an infant to have 6 – 10 colds a year. In fact, this is how babies acquire immunity against common infections. However, infants are most susceptible before the age of 6 months and especially before 2 months, so it is important to be extra careful in protecting them.
“It is important to have infants administered the flu vaccine which provides protection against common cold as well as other viruses such as swine flu. In fact, if you have babies at home, it is better to get all family members vaccinated so that you do not bring the virus home and in contact with the baby. Keeping the baby away from sick individuals and exercising a religious routine of hand washing before handling the baby or any of her feeding products is a key bulwark against illnesses,” says Dr Amruta Thakkar.
Dressing the babies up in layers is another important measure to keep them warm and prevent their body heat from escaping. Since babies tend to lose heat faster than adults, it is reasonable to dress your child in one more layer than yourself. However, it is equally important to prevent over-heating as it may cause heat rashes and worse heat up the baby’s body to cause high temperature.
It is also extremely important to avoid using any heating fuel based heating equipment that releases carbon monoxide. Often due to power outages people tend to keep coal heaters or braziers inside their homes but this can be extremely dangerous for babies and their lungs. Never use such heating devices. Also ensure that the heating devices are not causing dryness in baby’s skin that may lead to rashes and chapped lips.
“Breastfeeding is another important routine that you must follow as it offers babies the best protection against common infections. Breastfeed has important antibodies for the baby that help her fight off several bugs and infections. Breastfed babies are significantly less likely to fall ill. The more you can breastfeed, the better it is for the baby,” explains Dr Amruta Thakkar.
Tips to protect babies from cold:
n Dress them up in layers to protect their body heat from escaping
n Wash hands regularly before handling the baby or any of her feeding devices or food
n Avoid contact with sick individuals
n Never use coal based heaters
n Consider using humidifiers if air in your house in extremely dry
n Prevent against dehydration
n Stick to breastfeeding as it is the best protection for babies against illnesses