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Local pediatrician warns against kissing babies during flu season

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (KWWL) – With several holidays right around the corner, many people will be spending time around others and spreading a lot more than good cheer: they could be spreading illnesses like the common cold and the flu.

A seemingly harmless kiss to a baby can actually turn deadly, especially for newborns. That kiss can pass along the viruses and bacteria that cause the flu, whooping cough and even meningitis. While you might think you’re healthy, you could be carrying the illness with you that will make a baby very sick.

“One of them is the RSV virus. It causes wheezing and respiratory difficulties in young babies. The other is the influenza that can cause pneumonia and require a baby to be hospitalized,” said Dr. Claudia Vicetti, a pediatrician at UnityPoint Health’s Prairie Parkway clinic in Cedar Falls.

She said adults typically can fight off sickness that would hospitalize a baby.

“In the winter time, especially the older adults and older children, you may not feel sick right away or sick at all. You may already have the virus in your secretions and your saliva,” she said.

The reason is babies haven’t had the time to develop a robust immune system. Our immune system builds up as it is exposed to various illnesses.

“The immune response is not as strong just because they’re not ready yet. The bacteria or virus can cause much, much more severe illness the younger you are, especially in the newborn period,” Dr. Vicetti said.

Influenza, when it sickens a baby, will often go straight to the lungs she said. It can then turn into pneumonia, which can be a scary situation.

She said it’s best to play it safe and ask people to kindly not touch or kiss your baby at the holiday party.

“It’s really not worth it. Sometimes you’re just like ‘Sure. I’m not going to be rude. If you want to pass the baby, sure.” But how many hands are touching that baby,” she said.

She added if you’re going to let people hold your baby, make sure they wash their hands first.

So far this season, two children in other states (California and Texas) have died from flu complications. There have been only two deaths in Iowa this season. Both of those have been women over the age of 60.

According to the CDC, the 2017-18 flu season was the worst for child mortality in a decade.

Collin Dorsey

Weekend Anchor

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