Many babies who are admitted to NICU/SCN have compromised immune systems for a portion of their childhood. The most crucial time is the first year following NICU/SCN discharge when baby may not be large enough or strong enough to deal with a virus or infection. As they grow and develop their immune systems often become stronger and they are no longer as susceptible. It is therefore very important to maintain a high level of hygiene in your home, for you personally and to ensure visitors are fit and healthy.
Here are some practical steps you can take -
- Hand hygiene is the single most important way to prevent the spread of germs. Ensure your hands, your child's hands and those of visitors are washed thoroughly and dried with a clean towel or disposable paper towel regularly. That includes before and after nappy changing, before and after food handling, after going to the toilet, after animal handling, after coughing or sneezing, when your hands are visibly dirty from gardening etc and after coming home from public places.
- When baby is first home from hospital it is important to wash hands before touching baby or use an approved antibacterial lotion. You should require visitors wanting to hold or touch baby do the same. Approved lotions can be found at the chemist, you may like to keep a travel size container in your baby bag for outings and a larger container in a prominent place in your home. You may already be familiar with these products from your babies time in NICU/SCN.
- Many germs are distributed through coughing and sneezing. Did you know a sneeze can travel for a meter or more! Where possible a tissue should be used to cover the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, the tissue discarded and hands washed thoroughly afterward.
- People who are unwell should not visit your family. If you as a parent are unwell or other children in your home are unwell ensure a strict hand washing protocol is in place and try to limit contact with your susceptible child if at all possible, ie if there is another adult in the home who is not sick ask that they take on a more hands on role until you are feeling better. Consider sleeping in another room if you normally share with your baby/child until you are well again, likewise consider separating siblings where only 1 is sick.
- Shower daily to ensure good personal hygiene.
- Over the winter months it may be necessary to avoid busy public places like shopping centres.
- For the first 6 weeks after discharge it is recommended that you avoid enclosed public places and gatherings e.g., shopping centres, parties, church, playgroup etc.
- When using trolleys, public toilets and tables in public places wiping over with an antibacterial wipe or placing a physical barrier between you/your child and the item is recommended.
If you have older children you may like to print off a poster as a visual reminder for them to wash their hands. There are a large number of free graphics available here so you can choose one that suits you and your family.