Can Newborns Catch Viruses From Other Children?

From the moment your infant was born, you've probably been worrying constantly about keeping her safe, healthy and happy. While you can't shelter your baby from the world forever, you can take steps to keep her from catching a virus. Your baby's immune system is still developing, which leaves her susceptible to illness, and one of the primary ways this occurs is when when she comes into contact with other children.

Catching Viruses

Viruses can be spread through the air, by touching surfaces where the germs are present or by coming into contact with someone that already has the virus. According to the Mayo Clinic website, your baby is susceptible to catching a virus, such as the common cold, because she is probably around other children who don't wash their hands properly or who touch your baby with hands on which they've sneezed or coughed 1. Because your baby has an immature immune system, she's likely to catch several viruses during her first year of life, and other children are one of the primary ways they're spread to your little one.

Types of Viruses

Your baby can have up to seven colds during her first year of life, according to experts at the Mayo Clinic, and they can cause:

  • nasal congestion
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • coughing
  • a low fever
  • decreased appetite
  • difficulty sleeping

Your baby might also catch the flu, which can be more dangerous, especially if he's under the age of 6 months, since he won't be able to have a flu shot. Your child can catch the flu from another child if he hasn't received his flu shot yet, the website reports. Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, an upper respiratory illness, is another common virus among babies 3. It can cause difficulty breathing and might require a hospital stay, especially if your baby is under the age of 6 months. If a child who has a cold sore kisses your baby, the herpes simplex virus can be transferred to him, which can cause your little one to get a cold sore.

Protecting Your Baby

If your baby is going to be around other children, remind the children not to touch your baby, especially if they, or someone in their home, already has a virus. Ask the children to wash their hands regularly as well. If any of the children touch your baby's pacifier, bottle or toys, wash them with warm, soapy water to kill the germs before offering them to your baby again. You might hold your baby or put her swing, car seat or infant chair away from where other children are playing, too. If you're breastfeeding your infant, you're offering protection. According to the Ask Dr. Sears website, breast milk contains one million white blood cells per drop. All those white blood cells help destroy viruses in your baby's body before they make her sick. Have your other children get their flu shot, which can keep the flu virus out of your home and away from your baby 2.

Additional Considerations

If your baby develops the symptoms of a virus, including fever, decreased appetite and irritability, call her pediatrician right away. Because the symptoms of more serious viruses, such as:

  • croup
  • viral pneumonia
  • sinusitis
  • can mimic the symptoms of the common cold
  • it's essential to take your baby to the doctor to determine what specific virus he's contracted

If your baby goes to day care, you might consider keeping him home when other children at the center are sick.