It’s amazing the things you never think to worry about until you’re trying to get pregnant. Pets, in particular, can be a sore spot for pregnant women. They’re often members of the family, but can increase the risks of disease during pregnancy. It is fairly well known that cats can carry toxoplasmosis, so I’m already looking forward to being off of litter box duty for a year. But it didn’t even occur to me to worry about our pet snake! Reptiles often carry salmonella, so not only is it a risk for me during a potential pregnancy, but most doctors recommend that small children not handle reptiles as well. Am I really looking at six plus years of not picking up my snake? Well, probably not.
Reptiles DO Pose a Risk
Anyone with a compromised immune system is at a greater risk for contacting salmonella. Since pregnancy suppresses your immune system, the American Pregnancy Association recommends removing the reptile from the house. While not all reptiles carry infectious amounts of salmonella, the bacteria is common enough that reptile owners often act as though all animals DO carry the disease, just to be on the safe side. Pediatricians usually caution parents not to allow children under 5 to handle reptiles or amphibians. So not only is my snake a risk to myself before the child is born, but after birth we’ll have to take precautions for several years.
Protect Yourself and Your Baby
Getting rid of our pet is just not an option for us. Fortunately, we bought our snake directly from the breeder, and the risk of salmonella is fairly low. There are also precautions we can take to ensure that neither myself or our future child contacts salmonella.
Wash your hands – The number one way to prevent salmonella infection is to wash your hands before and after handling your reptile friend. Warm water and soap are sufficient, but hand sanitizer can also be an effective and quick fix.
Keep it out of the kitchen – Never place any of your reptile supplies in the kitchen. Empty water dishes in the toilet, and clean your snake tank outside. If using the bathtub, make sure to clean with bleach after wards.
Don’t eat or smoke while handling your reptile- Since I shouldn’t be smoking anyway while pregnant, this one will be easy to follow!
Don’t let reptiles roam free in the house – This is more of a concern with families that have tortoises or large lizards. If you let your pet wander around the house, he could potentially shed salmonella bacteria anywhere, which you or your child may touch at any point.
Let someone else do the dirty work – It’s probably safe for me to pick up our snake’s weekly poop as long as I wear a glove. But it always helps if someone else will do it for me!
Move the cage out of reach – Once our child gets mobile, we’ll have to move the snake tank out of reach. Not only do we want to prevent a curious toddler from pulling the aquarium onto his head or wrapping the heat lamp cord around his neck, but we also don’t want him pressing his little face into the glass.
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