I’m an animal lover, but I also understand that animals can carry a wide range of diseases and germs. Especially around a baby, animals can provide an unnecessary source of danger because an infant’s immune system can’t fight back against these foreign viruses. When I was a toddler, my parents decided to get rid of their kitten because she was scratching me too often and the doctor warned them that infection could easily result in a trip to the ER. It was probably a tough choice for them but obviously made the most sense. Assuming your cats or dogs aren’t aggressive, it’s okay to let them play near your baby with proper supervision. However, one pet, in particular, is extremely dangerous around babies. If you have a reptile, you should not let your baby near it.
Studies show that reptiles often carry salmonella. Unfortunately, keeping the reptile in a separate room might not be enough to prevent infection. The CDC recommends that households with children under the age of five have no reptiles at all. If you handle your reptile and then handle your baby, some of the bacteria could still be on your skin and it will be easily transferred into your baby’s system. When your baby turns five, his immune system will be more similar in strength to yours, so small amounts of bacteria won’t harm him as much.
Salmonella is extremely dangerous to people of any age, so to a baby, it can be fatal. Food safety is a good way to prevent it in your daily life, but there is no telling whether or not your family reptile might be carrying any. If you can have a relative keep your reptile for a few years until the baby is five, do so. It would be the best option. Otherwise, you might have to sell it permanently or bring it to an animal shelter.
When it comes to your baby’s health, don’t take any risks. You might think you could keep the reptile in the basement and wash your hands thoroughly to be safe, but you really shouldn’t keep the animal in the same house as the delicate infant. If you think you might conceive in the next decade, get a different type of pet. Almost any other domestic animal is safer than a reptile, so choose one that doesn’t pose a serious risk to baby’s health.
Source: AM Aiken et al: Risk of Salmonella Infection with Exposure to Reptiles in England 2004-2007. Infectious Disease Epidemiology Unit Volume 15 Issue 22 2010