Hospitals Keeping Kids Away to Ward Off Flu

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Parents remember the first time their older child met a new sibling -- usually at Mommy's hospital bedside. But this year, millions of big brothers and big sisters will have to wait until baby comes home to experience this milestone.

New restrictions at hospitals across the country are aimed at cutting the spread of the H1N1 virus, and since kids are forever passing germs back and forth, they're being banned from many hospitals.

"This is a hospital by hospital decision," says Elizabeth Lietz, a spokesperson for the American Hospital Association. "They take into consideration the patients and communities they serve and how H1N1 has been impacting their communities."The restrictions vary from location to location, but, in general, hospitals are not allowing anyone younger than 13, or, in some cases, 18, to visit patients during flu season. Hospitals are also limiting the number of visitors and are asking people who have typical flu symptoms like coughing, sneezing, vomiting, fever, diarrhea or a runny nose, to stay away.

"We understand that families want to visit their loved ones, but our focus is on the safety of patients and healthcare workers," says Lietz. In addition to the visitor restrictions, hospitals are also taking other measures to control the spread of the flu, like offering patients and visitors hand sanitizers and masks and setting up separate areas of the emergency room to care for people with flu symptoms.

Newborns, with their not-yet-developed immune systems, are more likely to become seriously ill if they get the flu, which is why these restrictions, while inconvenient, are so important.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.