by Ann Douglas
Your preschooler's fascination with Franklin the Turtle might make you think about buying your tiny tot a pet turtle. But before you head out to your local pet store, you might want to heed this advice from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine: turtles and other reptiles are not suitable pets for children under the age of five.
Turtles carry Salmonella bacteria on their outer skin and shell. If the person who is handling a turtle isn't meticulous about his or her hygiene, it is possible for that person to spread the Salmonella bacteria to other family members. A pet turtle will also contaminate all surfaces that it comes into contact with, and the turtles water dish or aquarium can, in turn, infect other household surfaces (e.g., the kitchen sink, the bathtub).
Anyone exposed to Salmonella bacteria is at risk of develop an illness called Salmonella, which is characterized by diarrhea (which can bloody), fever, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps. Earlier this year, a four-week-old baby in the U.S. died as a result of Salmonella bacteria spread from the family's pet turtle.
If you are expecting a baby and you have a pet turtle at home, you should put your pet turtle up for adoption before your baby arrives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "A family expecting a child should remove any pet reptile or amphibian from the home before the infant arrives." The CDC also stresses that childcare centers should avoid keeping reptiles or amphibians as pets.
Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site, having-a-baby.com.
Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to publish granted to Pregnancy.org.