Yay for fall! It’s time for pumpkin spice everything, sweaters, crock pots and football. It’s also prime time for low grade fevers, barking coughs, catching vomit in your hands, and calls from the school nurse. Yay for cold and flu season! This time of year can really suck…er, blow?
Between school, the changing weather, and not getting enough rest, you and yours are bound to get sick. Maybe your entire house is sick now, passing around that awesome upper respiratory infection. Maybe you are feeling lucky so far? Give it time. Here are a few suggestions on how to survive the hell that is cold and flu season.
1. Get The Flu Shot
Let’s get the serious stuff out of the way first. Vaccinating against the flu could save your kid’s life. The Florida Department of Health announced that a child died after testing positive for flu. They had no underlying medical issues and had not had their influenza vaccination. According to the report, “Most deaths are reported in unvaccinated children. Influenza vaccination has been shown to reduce a child’s likelihood of dying from influenza by up to 60%.”
It’s really pretty simple. Protect yourself, your kids, your neighbors, and everyone you come in contact with by getting a flu shot. Go call your doctor now. I will wait. Seriously. GO.
2. Accept That Sickness Will Happen
Congrats on that flu shot, but let’s not get smug. Your kids will get something, and you will likely get it too. The sooner you accept that your schedules will get fucked up, your laundry is going to double (because snot and vomit), and you are going to be sleep deprived for the next several weeks or months, the easier it will be to love those sick babies when they need us most. Oh, we will still be cranky about another day at home juggling work and whiny kids, but take the element of surprise off the table.
3. Don’t Ration Screen Time
What do you want to do when you are sick? You want to stay in our PJs and watch TV all day. We all do. Because being upright and mobile totally sucks when you don’t feel good. Let your kid zone out and be lazy. They need rest and distraction. You do too. Save the magna tiles and board games for another day; let your kid binge watch their favorite shows. Take the time to doze off for a bit, sneak in some productivity, or cross-stich. Whatever. Just don’t fight the sweet comfort of screen time on sick days.
4. Be Ready With Cold and Flu Fluid And Foods
You want to be sure your kiddo is getting enough fluids, and if they claim they are hungry, no one should trust a weak stomach with grilled cheese or yogurt. Keep apple juice, ginger ale, and Gatorde in the cupboard for the days when your kid doesn’t feel like eating. Also, a friend told me that if you drink grape juice after you or your kid is exposed to a stomach bug then you will prevent the drinker from getting the virus. Sadly, there is not a lot of scientific proof behind this, but we have had success. And anything is worth a shot when you have one kid puking and the risk of the entire house going up in flames when you burn it down when the next kid tosses his cookies.
Speaking of cookies, make sure you have saltine crackers on hand. My kids call these “sick crackers” because they only get them when they don’t feel well and don’t have an appetite. Vomiting is a prerequisite. There have been pretty intense fights in our house when a non-sick child tried to sneak a sick cracker. Those are reserved to make the patient feel better and special. Go find a Wheat Thin, kid; you will be sick soon enough.
5. Keep Over-The-Counter Essentials In Stock
Keep your choice of kids’ acetaminophen or ibuprofen or some holistic oil or powder you crush with an elk horn on hand for fevers, aches, and pains. One holistic, but scientifically proven, cold and flu antidote is elderberry. It comes in several forms, but for you and your kiddos, the gummy or thick syrup options may be best. If elderberry is taken at the first sign of illness the cold and flu viruses can be reduced by 2-4 days.
Halls makes a kids’ lollipop for sore throats, coughs, and keeping them quiet for a few minutes. I have also made a warm water and honey “tea” for my kids. One loves it; the other two threw up in their mouths. I swear by a kid-friendly menthol rub for my kids’ chests at bedtime. It helps clear their stuffy nose a bit and helps a little with coughing. And it’s super fun when you accidently get it in your eye after application.
A quality and easy-to-use thermometer is preferable over the “you feel warm” hand on the forehead test. And I can’t stress the importance of a humidifier and a clean filter for said humidifier. Seriously, change that shit often. No one wants to breathe in stinky, yellow tinted filter air. The humidifier’s moist air (yes, I said moist — get over it) will help with dry, scratchy throats and coughs.
6. Prep The Bedroom Like a Boss
Let’s talk about sheets. The worst part of your kid getting sick, especially in the middle of the night is the cleanup. A wise friend taught me the following trick when my oldest was a baby. When dressing my kid’s crib mattress, she told me to layer the waterproof pad and sheet with another pad and sheet. When the baby had a blow out or spit up her bottle, I only had to strip the top two layers. There was a new sheet and waterproof pad under it, waiting to be soiled. With enough bedding, this works on any size bed. Save yourself a middle of the night sheet change by just peeling the gross ones off to reveal a fresh set.
Tissues or a handkerchief, water, and a bucket are what you really need. Those will cover nose, throat, and stomach. Find a special puke bucket or bowl you can turn into familial folklore. Everyone loves a good vomit story with reoccurring characters.
Prop up your kid’s mattress a bit to create an incline for them when they lie down. It helps with the post nasal drip. Or sometimes just forces them to roll down to the end of their bed and sleep in a ball of used tissues.
7. Call A Doctor If You Aren’t Sure
Please don’t rely on essential oils or Mom Facebook groups. If you are worried about your kid’s health, just call their pediatrician.
I think this covers it. Your kids will get sick this cold and flu season. You will too. Feel free to burn the sheets instead of washing them, turn on Netflix, and throw your kids a few sick crackers once in a while. And breathe. You totally got this.