by Kristen Bagwell
Is there anything that tugs more at your heartstrings than a sick child? Fortunately, we have not had to deal with any major illnesses in our childs' lives thus far. Unfortunately, there is a mean bug that will not get out of our house, and this week, the baby's got it.
When my daughter had this bug last week, she had "the barbies" twice - once at school and once on the way home (in her dad's car, not mine...yessss!!). That was as bad as it got: high fever for a few hours, couple of barfs, and then some quality time with the tylenol, tv remote, and a cold rag on her head. A short 24 hours later and she was bouncing off the walls...and for once, I was happy to see her do it.
This week, it's my son's turn with the virus and he is much smaller. It's scary to see a high fever in a baby, and while I have a decent amount of experience under my belt, there's always the moment when I am holding my sick child and I just well up with tears. It's this moment that I feel 100% parental; I'd do anything to take the hurt away. It's the best and worst feeling in the world, and it always rattles me.
If the baby is hot and running a high fever, don't continue to pile on blankets. It's okay to strip him down to his diaper to help him get cooled off - he will not get a chill or get sicker in the time it takes him to cool down. This is counter to every old wives tale I have ever heard; in my house, we used to pile under blankets when we were sick. Removing clothes is helpful to bring the body temp down, though, and it's less jarring than a cool bath. A cool bath does work wonders, though, but keep it brief and lukewarm, not cold, to prevent giving baby a chill.
A cold rag on the forehead or back of the neck is often soothing if the clothes-off thing doesn't work for you. Iced drinks or popsicles can help bring the body temperature down as well, which brings me to my next point...
It's very important to make sure your kids do not get dehydrated when they're sick. This is a tough one for all ages - young babies may refuse a bottle, and older kids can be difficult and refuse to drink if they really feel crummy. Clear liquids are hydrating liquids (for babies, breast milk or formula are the obvious choices, but you can mix in some water and/or pedialyte at your doctor's advice). Water, ginger ale or sprite, even chicken broth can help.
Pedialyte is good when you know your child needs hydrating (lots of vomiting or diarrhea), but be careful about sports drinks - they often have quite a bit of sodium and should be cut with water for the younger kids. If your child is vomiting and cannot keep anything down at all, offer small ice chips and move to tiny amounts of liquid every fifteen minutes. Start with a spoonful of water or ginger ale, and if she can keep that down after 15 minutes, try another one. Increase the amount of the liquid "dose" every hour until she can drink normally.
A healthy, hydrated baby should make 8-10 wet diapers in 24 hours. If your infant is not well, keep a count of how many diapers he is wetting, and whether his urine is darker than normal. Fewer wet diapers and darker urine are signs of dehydration and should be treated immediately by a health care professional.
While I am not a huge fan of medication for children, fevers are one situation where my dislikes go out the window. To break a fever, it helps to keep a consistent dose of ibuprofen or tylenol in your child's system by following the recommended dosages on the back of the package and/or according to your care provider's instructions.
For extreme cases, you may alternate ibuprofen and tylenol, but make sure you get the specifics from your nurse or pediatrician before you try that method. The dosages and concentration of acetaminophen (tylenol) changed last fall, so it's wise to double-check, even if you have kids and are accustomed to giving them over-the-counter meds.
Sometimes it helps to keep a log of your child's activities and the times they happened during the day, just to keep track. If you need to call the doctor or go for a visit, you'll have a log of your child's symptoms and how long they've been occurring. You'll also be clear on when to give meds, liquids or foods. Acitivity diaries are pretty common for babies and first-time moms, but consider keeping a log when your child is sick. In the middle of the night, when you're not sure whether it's time for the next dose of medicine, you'll be happy you have it written down.
It's easy to get stressed and overwhelmed when your child is sick. Worrying will not help her get better, so give yourself 5 minutes to worry yourself to death, and then stop. When she is resting, don't do the laundry or clean the breakfast dishes. Make some time for yourself to relax and decompress, whether it's taking a long shower, reading a magazine, or collapsing in your favorite chair for 20 minutes. This can be a tough rule to follow even on a normal day, but during sick days, it's a must.
What are your favorite tips to keep your sanity during your child's illness, and to get kids back on the road to recovery? Share them in the comments section below!
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