Sick Season: Prevention and Warning Signs
‘Tis the season to be jolly… and sneezy and sniffly and achy. Try as we might, it seems even the most careful of mommas end up with a sick babe at some point between October and February. While we paid our dues in the Texas heat from May to August to cozy up inside during these colder months, indoor activities often mean germs galore. Keep reading for preventative tips as well as how to know if and when your little one needs medical attention.
Hand washing is the most effective tool to keep everyone healthy. As a fun learning tool for older kiddos, sing through their favorite Christmas songs a couple times until you’ve reached at least 20 seconds. Teach effective hand washing technique by using lots of friction with soap and water to get a good scrub.
Easier said than done during the holidays, but try your best to keep baby from being exposed to large groups of people and anyone currently or very recently sick. Most friends and family members will be respectful of your desires to keep baby well and will keep their distance.
We teach all of our Nightingale families how important sleep is for babe’s development, and sleep also helps with keeping babies healthy. When their little world stays as predictable as possible with healthy sleep habits and steady feeding and bedtime routines, they’re less likely to get stressed and succumb to illness. If you’re travelling for the holidays, be sure to pack items to maintain healthy sleep habits (swaddle, white noise and a dark room if possible).
Breastfeeding will provide antibodies to help babies fight illness and giving older babies and kiddos immune boosting nutrients like vitamin c via fruits and vegetables will help as well. Try to get in the sunshine when you can for some good ol’ vitamin d for further immune strengthening.
SIGNS OF ILLNESS
One bonus with chatty toddlers is they can at least tell you what hurts and when they’re feeling a little better. With itty bitties this can be a little trickier and anxiety provoking. Here is a quick reference for signs to watch for the following illnesses:
RSV: fever, cough, congestion, sneezing, runny nose, fussiness, poor feeding
CROUP: fever, harsh, strong, barky cough often described as a “seal barking” with onset in late afternoon/early evening, hoarse cry and/or voice
FLU: fever, chills, aches, headache, sore throat, cough, runny nose, upset tummy, diarrhea
A good rule of thumb with the onset of fever is to always treat the child not the fever. Fever is our body’s natural response to illness and means it’s doing its job to fight the intruder. Only medicate if you can tell babe or toddler is feeling badly and is over 3 months old. At this age you can administer acetaminophen, and when they’re over 6 months old you may give them ibuprofen.
When babies throw up it can be very scary and alarming. Their little bodies cannot possibly throw up that much, right?! Regardless of age of child, try your best to limit any liquid or food until an hour after the most recent vomit episode. At this time, offer a teaspoon of clear liquid such as water or pedialyte every 10 minutes for the first few hours, but only advance to the next teaspoon if they keep one down for 10 minutes. If they vomit, the clock starts over at an hour. Stay with young baby or child until they can keep the clear liquid down. Once baby has gone 6+ hours without vomiting, offer a short nursing session or 1-2oz in a bottle every 30 minutes or so. If at 12 hours there continues to be no vomiting, resume a normal diet. Be prepared for baby to be hungrier for a few days, and go back to clear liquids if vomiting resumes.
WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR
If baby is working too hard to breathe by breathing fast, flaring their nostrils, making a squeaky noise when inhaling or you notice muscles pulling around their ribs and lower neck, it’s time to call the doctor. Especially after repeated vomiting episodes, monitor wet diapers and if you notice these lessening, call the doc to ward off dehyrdration. If you see pink tint in lips, tongue and skin diminishing or if they are lethargic and not alert, it’s time to call your practitioner.
Above all, soak up these snuggles, and use this time to slow down. Resist the urge to make every-single-holiday function if babe just can’t seem to kick the symptoms and focus on getting them well! Merry Christmas!