Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sick Babies and Toddlers

My 14 month old is currently sick.  It is hard enough when adults fall ill but what misery when the little ones succomb!  They are miserable when they feel bad so will not play, laugh, or smile as much as usual.  Naturally, they will want to be held more and demand more of the caregiver's time and attention.   One has the difficult job of coaxing the sick child to drink more fluids in between wiping away snot which takes skill in of itself.  Then there is the nose plunger, which some parents are much too aggressive using, but when done right, could suction out gobs of mucous to the little one's temporary relief.

The challenge is that sometimes there is very little one can do to relieve discomfort.  Time, rest, and fluids are key.  However, sleep is often disrupted due to coughing fits, snot fits, and unfortunately, like for us last night, even vomiting fits!  A sleep deprived child means more fussiness and less immunity to fight sickness so it can be a vicious cycle.  Often parents will fall ill themselves due to lack of sleep as well as the close contact with all the contagious secretions.  That is why hand washing is so important!

So what best to do during these trying days?  Offer supportive care.  The goal is to try to alleviate symptoms as much as possible so the child can rest.  There are limited options because studies show that it is harmful to give cough medications to children under the age of 6.  So as best as you can:

-  push fluids to avoid dehydration!  (don't stress if appetite is down and child is not eating much solids.. they may throw it all up later anyway!)
-  tylenol if needed for fever or pain
-  saline nose drops can help if nares are crusty and dry (sometimes helps them sneeze out gobs of goo)
-  stepping into the bathroom with child after a hot steamy shower can help with breathing
-  humidifier at night if you have the heater on and to avoid nose bleeds

Most upper respiratory infections are due to viruses and do not require antibiotics.  However, if symptoms persist for more than 1 week or worsens instead of improves make sure you see a physician so the child can be checked for ear infections, bronchitis, strep throat etc!

At the end of the day... the best medicine you can offer may just be lots of love, hugs, and kisses!