How do I prevent my nephew from getting me sick all the time?
March 26, 2019 4:30 PM   Subscribe

My baby nephew has given me 3 terrible colds in less than 3 months, even when I've been vigilant about hand washing. How do I prevent this going forward?

I have a 9 month old nephew who I see about 2-3 times a month. I love him to pieces and am so happy to be part of his life, but he keeps giving me colds. He's been in daycare since November and always seems to have a runny nose or little cough.

In December, early March, and now late March, I've come down with bad colds within 36-48 hours of spending time with him, so I'm pretty confident that he's the source of the illnesses. When I babysat him on Saturday, I was SO CAREFUL not to pick up another cold -- I washed my hands and used hand sanitizer constantly, I made sure not to kiss his face, I didn't let him touch MY face, etc. AND YET.

I know a cold isn't a huge deal, but these are debilitating enough that I usually have to miss work. The one I caught in early March led to missing almost 4 days of work and suffering from a low-grade fever for several days. FYI, I'm an extremely healthy 30-something woman with excellent blood work, no reason for my immune system to be compromised, and no other health issues at the moment.

I adore this little boy and don't want to spend any less time with him, but I also can't keep running through my sick time. Any tips to help me enjoy my nephew without catching cold? I'd especially be interested in hearing from parents with little kids who bring home a lot of illnesses. Am I just doomed to be sick? Are there any supplements or other preventative measures I can take?
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Also Cleaning anything he touches (GERMS)
Kick back an Emergen-cee or some such when you're gonna see him too?!
Good luck!
posted by PistachioRoux at 4:35 PM on March 26, 2019

2 things that have helped my immunocompromised self ... train yourself out of touching your face (and maybe don't even eat around nephew). And: moisturize the bottom of your nose, top and bottom of skin around lips, and skin around eyes liberally. Healthy skin, especially around mucous membranes, is an important line of defense.
posted by Dashy at 4:50 PM on March 26, 2019

Don't touch your eyes, lips, etc. before washing your hands. Wash your hands for at least 45 seconds with plenty of physical friction. Don't rely on Purell as it does not often prevent rhinovirii.
posted by WCityMike at 4:54 PM on March 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

My experience with little kids is that the barrage of germs lets up in the spring and summer and doesn't ramp back up again until fall so if my predictions are correct you have time to build up more sick leave. When my oldest son was a baby in daycare we were sick A LOT for like 2 years. But then it stops and you are bulletproof! By the time child #2 was born we'd caught all the colds and didn't get sick all the time.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:05 PM on March 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Get a flu shot.
Wear a mask; kids get used to it quickly.
Agree, learn to not touch your face.
Take zinc, which has been shown to have some effectiveness.
posted by theora55 at 5:08 PM on March 26, 2019

This shall pass. The germ barrage only lasts the first winter, then both baby and you will build up immunity to most colds. Not to say that you won’t get sick ever again, of course, but it’s never as intense as the first winter in daycare.

In the meantime. Wash your hands, do not touch your face, try to turn away if baby sneezes, do not touch your face, do not share food with baby no matter how tempting it might be, do not touch your face, practice good hygiene when changing diapers/wiping noses, do not touch your face, careful when handling toys he has chewed or drooled on, ideally just don’t. Oh, and DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE.
posted by lydhre at 5:33 PM on March 26, 2019 [6 favorites]

Who knows if these remedies work, but I would say worth a try: echinacea supplement at the first sign of an illness, and maybe even proactively on the days before and after you visit with baby . Gargle with salt water when you get home. Zinc, as someone above suggested. If you’re open to it , mosey on down to your local health food store and ask them to recommend an immune boosting elixir for you. Usually some combo of goldenseal and echinacea. Good luck! Baby is Lucky to have you!
posted by leslievictoria at 5:40 PM on March 26, 2019

Extra sleep and extra fluid intake when you’re planning to be near the little vector, and after exposure. Don’t just wash your hands frequently, also wipe down hard surfaces. Not with anything antibacterial, just a warm soapy cloth and then a fresh damp cloth.

His parents might appreciate that or they might be insulted or they might think you’re overcareful. YMMV.
posted by bilabial at 5:44 PM on March 26, 2019

My opinion? You pretty much can't, but this trend fades after a year or so. I got sick all the time in my son's first approx 18 months in daycare (almost exclusively in the fall/winter), and this year almost not at all. So you will hopefully get a summer reprieve and then maybe have one more season of this, or maybe not even.
posted by slidell at 5:51 PM on March 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

As a non-parent aunt, my adorable little niece and nephew vectors still make me sick. I’m currently battling the bronchitis remnants of a cold the 3 year old gave me around Valentine’s Day. If you have kids, yes, you build up immunity I think. If you don’t, they continue to make you sick in my experience. I just see them anyway, but we do limit exposure to grandma at times because she has a more fragile immune system and they are cute, funny, wonderful, virulent little beings. Hand washing, don’t touch your face, all yes. But really: I haven’t found a real solution. You might see them enough that you’ll get it all early. I only see them once every 3-4 weeks. Just enough to recover from the last illness!
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 6:44 PM on March 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

In addition to nthing DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE, something that helped me when I worked in a daycare was changing my clothes IMMEDIATELY upon arriving home after work.
posted by cooker girl at 6:46 PM on March 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Here to second cooker girl's recommendation.

I work with very young children who are constantly sick with colds and various ailments and I no longer get sick as frequently now that I change my clothes and shower as soon as I get home. I also wipe down my glasses and my phone after getting out of the shower.
posted by dearadeline at 6:56 PM on March 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am not a germ expert. I am the father of three children all within 30 months of each other. Lots of germs fast for 3 years. I think you need to spend MORE time with your nephew. I think you need to get used to being around the germs. Definitely wash you hands and remove your cloths at the end of the day, but by desantizing after a brief visit of a day or so, I think you are not building up the immunity you want (and deserve).

His parents who are with him a lot are not sick all the time. This will go away as you spend more time with him. Also agree that the time of year is relevant. Nephew will constantly be picking up new germs. He may have siblings. I say get in there more often now and build up the immunity. Think that every day you are out sick now will save you multiple days later.
posted by AugustWest at 7:21 PM on March 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's nose and eyes that transmit most easily, not mouth. Nose and eyes. At least that's fewer things to remember.
posted by karmachameleon at 1:49 AM on March 27, 2019

Gargling with salt water can help reduce the number of colds you catch.
posted by carrioncomfort at 8:58 AM on March 27, 2019

Super helpful as always -- thank you! It's news to me that Purell isn't effective against the rhinovirus, which is a bummer since they have a giant vat of it in their kitchen and that's what I tend to use. Soap and water from now on!

It also occurs to me that since his parents don't get sick all the time and are probably not obsessing about their kid's germs, they are ALSO spreading the virus by touching the baby and then touching surfaces. Now I'm thinking about the door handles and faucets I touched on Saturday and cringing.
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack at 2:58 PM on March 27, 2019

I have a little (travel-size) bottle that I filled with isopropyl alcohol. I spray things like light switches, door handles, occasionally even the table and chairs. (I go a little crazier with it when my Pops visits, as he's immuno-compromised.) It's kept the last two colds that came home from spreading through our household, when I normally catch everything. This is in addition to washing hands, not touching your face, not letting your nephew sneeze on your face, etc. And honestly, always wash your hands when you get home and consider wiping your phone down with an alcohol wipe if you've been using it while you were out. Changing clothes and taking a shower isn't overkill when it comes to toddlers either.
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:45 PM on March 27, 2019

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