Q: My baby was born four weeks premature and was in the NICU for two weeks, mostly for respiratory difficulties. Do I need to follow any special precautions now that he's home?
A: Since your baby had some breathing problems at birth, he is more prone to developing them during the first year or two of life. To keep him from being exposed to germs that could cause an infection, limit his contact with anyone but family and close friends as much as possible during his first winter (when viruses are most rampant), and have people wash their hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before holding him. Also discourage all preschoolers from coming into contact with your son (barring siblings, of course), as they are notorious germ carriers. And limit outdoor excursions to wide-open spaces—take nice, long walks, for instance. Avoid shopping centers, parties and siblings' schools for the first several months—and even longer, if possible. Preemies are at increased risk for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), an inflammation of the lungs that can be fatal. To protect him from this, follow the above precautions strictly. Also talk to your pediatrician about Synagis injections to help prevent RSV.