4

I'm an expat from the UK living in the USA. My father works in the charity sector visiting third world countries and sees a visit to Haiti which coincides which my wife's due date as an opportunity to meet their grandchild.

My wife is understandably concerned that the first 6 weeks a newborn is very susceptible to infections and has concerns about what my Dad might catch whilst in Haiti. He will be visiting a hospital as part of his charity work during his time there.

This is causing the sort of tensions that I worry can drive a wedge between families. Is my dad actually putting our newborn at risk through his behaviour? I really don't want to tell him to keep away as I feel guilty enough living so far from them. My dad is adamant that we are overreacting but it's really not a normal situation. He cares a lot about the children in the hospital and so I feel as though my wife and I are selfish Westerners.

  • 3
    I would consult your doctor. If the doctor says it's okay, then you can have him visit without worrying. If the doctor says it is not okay, then you have an authority figure other than you saying that he should not visit. – user9164 Dec 9 '14 at 0:34
  • Let go of the "westerner's guilt", your dad is the one being irresponsible in this case; the dangers are real (see CreationEdge's post), there's absolutely nothing to feel guilty about and your infant's safety should come before anything else and give you the courage to confront anybody about this. – jeremy radcliff Dec 9 '14 at 6:28
  • I wonder if there's still time to ask your father to visit you before he goes to Haiti? Seems to me he can see the baby if it has arrived without all the contagion; if the baby hasn't come yet, that will be another trip (maybe for your little family). – anongoodnurse Dec 9 '14 at 7:06
  • 1
    See also What is a reasonable amount of time to wait before family visits your new baby? -- it is not a duplicate since it's not concerned with contagion, but has some useful general advice :) – Acire Dec 10 '14 at 13:03
  • 1
    Just faced the same issue with my father, he just came back from west Africa and wanted to visit, our children are 4 years and 6 months. We told him to wait 6 weeks. He wasn't happy but ultimately you have to do what you think is best, your children need to come before other people's bruised egos or hurt feelings – user1450877 Dec 10 '14 at 15:52
5

I believe that your father could potentially be putting your newborn at risk, yes.

Here's why:

According to a 2-year survey, 64% of travelers to 3rd world countries develop some sort of illness. 26% of those travelers were ill once they returned from the trip, with 56% of those travelers' illnesses starting after the return (9.3% of all travelers).

Thus, roughly 1/10 of people who travel to 3rd world countries will return to their home country with an illness that may be contagious, but isn't currently presenting any symptoms.

Nearly half of those reported illnesses were diarrhea, which is contagious. Even if you flush, and wash your hands, diarrhea contaminates many other surfaces by aerosol.

If your father visits and has an episode of diarrhea, he risks spreading the illness to any member of the household. If you or your wife catches it, then there's a high likelihood that the rest of the house will as well. You may not actually get ill until after your father's visit, because of incubation times, just as he may not be sick until after he returns.

Since your father is specifically visiting a hospital, his risk of catching something is actually greater.

Typically, an infant is going to be exposed to some contagions no matter what. However, I can't think of any other situations where I could concretely say there's as high as a 1 in 10 chance that a visitor may be bringing contagions that no one in my household has been exposed to.

All that being said, there's no telling how severe any spread illness would be, or that you could tell it apart from any of the myriad of illnesses your infant could catch anyway. However, from personal experience, while infant illnesses may not negatively impact the overall health of your child, they certainly impact other parts of your life. Feeding and sleeping schedules are often immediately affected and can take much longer than the baby's health to get back to normal. When you're already sleep-deprived from having a newborn in the house, losing even more of your own sleep to take care of your sick child is brutal.


I don't think it's unreasonable to ask someone who's coming from overseas (even without the stop in a developing country) to wait until after the 6-week mark to visit your newborn.

You're not being selfish by trying to keep your child healthy. Your father is going out of his way to visit sick children! He of all people should understand the importance of illness prevention.

You're not saying he can't visit, you're just asking him to respect your timetable about when he can visit. He may be doing morally-positive charity work, but morally-positive behavior isn't immune to negative natural consequences (unfortunately).

  • There are many different countries in third world and it's "danger" can vary alot from one to another, try to learn about each specific treat. Haiti was hit by natural disaters in last years and do not recovered from it. There are a good chance you father got exposed to diarrhea in a variety not too contagious like this answer can make you believe and have less than two weeks from contagion to symptons. I can agree with a two weeks "quarentine policy" for anyone visiting an hospital, even in the first world, but no 6 weeks – jean Dec 12 '14 at 20:10
  • 1
    @jean The 6 weeks is because of the newborn's age, not the grandfather's possible illness. Also, I think "not too contagious" is not a clear, quantified statement. Even then, it still agrees that diarrhea is contagious, regardless of the infectiousness, duration, or severity of the illness, which means there is a risk. It's still up to the parents to decide if the degree of risk is something they want deal with. Remember, diarrhea is only one possible symptom. There are other ways possible illnesses spread, and they may be less visible and/or more difficult to pinpoint. – user11394 Dec 12 '14 at 22:53
3

CreationEdge's answer covers the health risks well, I think. I don't have additional feedback on that aside from opinion, but I would like to address your last sentences:

This is causing the sort of tensions that I worry can drive a wedge between families..... I really don't want to tell him to keep away as I feel guilty enough living so far from them. My dad is adamant that we are overreacting....

You're the parents. You and your wife get to choose whether or not this is too risky.

My in-laws habitually disregard my instructions regarding my kids. They let a 7-year-old ride in the car without his booster seat (breaking the law, not just my household rules) because he complained about reaching the seatbelt buckle. My daughter is very lactose intolerant, and they ignore the "dairy free" guidelines we want her to follow and say Lactaid pills are completely adequate (and then I end up helping her through days of intestinal distress). These are judgement calls which they have no right to make, particularly in direct contradiction to my requests. As a result, their relationship with our family is extremely tense and strained right now.

I suggest that you try to focus on this aspect of the problem in subsequent discussions with your father. The longer-term issue isn't about this one visit and potential contagion, but about being able to have a healthy and accessible relationship with your extended family. "Our concern here isn't just about the hospital visit, even though that's a big worry. We're also bothered that you don't seem to be taking our concerns seriously. This is our child and we need to be able to count on your support in our parenting decisions." I wish we'd been wise enough to start this conversation in our family earlier -- maybe it would have helped, maybe not, but I'd feel better about how things have gone.

  • +1 I think that's right on the money as far as the relationship aspect goes. It's not just our children that need to respect our authority about our children. – user11394 Dec 10 '14 at 17:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.