Anne-Marie is back from Do Not Faint to share her experience of dealing with her son’s first cold. While he was sick, she found herself searching the web for the best things to do during the experience and felt that every list just was more things to buy. Another topic truly Fit for Moms.
Our son seems to have a strong immune system; he has only been sick twice in his ten months of life. Given that he has taken three round-trip air trips and played with many babies in many settings, that seems pretty great to me. The downside is that when he has been sick, he has had the nastiest viruses I have ever encountered. The first illness? Hand, foot and mouth, also known as the Coxsackie virus. The second one seemed like a little cold, but it turned into a big cold that all of his relatives contracted. I have it for a second time, but I think this time, I got it from his dad. Every possible symptom hit: runny nose, stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, fever, weird gunk in his eyes. Here are the two most important things what I learned about surviving a baby’s illness with as much grace as possible:
1) Listen to your gut, but don’t diagnose your own child with anything specific. Write down your observations. The quickest, easiest and most effective pediatrician visit or phone call involves starting with “Something is not quite right.” A good doctor will trust that you know when your child is feeling “off.” Then, explain what you’ve observed briefly. Finally, use the rest of your notes to answer questions. We visited our pediatrician’s office just before leaving on a 9-day cross-country trip to visit family, and left with antibiotic eye drops for the disgusting green goo and an oral antibiotic to use if his fever got higher and/or he seemed to be getting worse.
A note: our pediatrician told us that there is actual scientific research proving that parents are much better at telling when something is not right with a child than a doctor. Doctors are trained to look for situations that need more serious intervention, and so they often seem to be brushing off that cold and low-grade fever that has parents so worried. Listen to your heart about whether or not your child is sick, and listen to a trusted physician about what it might be and how you can treat it.
2) For colds/coughs: before you head to the drugstore, think about what will actually help your baby and you get rest and relief from the actual symptoms you are seeing. My instinct was to buy All The Things. There are some products I’ll list later that were actually helpful, but I could have saved us a lot of money by finding alternatives that weren’t branded “Baby” – you know they jack up those prices just because it is “for baby” – or trying some truly basic DIY remedies. If I link to a product, it’s a link to Diapers.com, because they delivered my order to a remote mountain house, for free, the next day. How do they do that?!
Remedy list, including favorite products–
Runny nose: There are saline nose wipes that don’t irritate skin the dry tissues can, and I loved the little packages for traveling. The annoying part was that they are expensive and it is hard to find the unscented wipes. (Why does anyone need a “grape” scented nose wipe?) Now that we are home, I saved us at least $10 by buying a bottle of Target-brand simple saline drops in the adult cold relief aisle and pouring it on a dry tissue. This makes the adults who have all caught this virus once or twice (it’s a terrible cycle!) happy, too, and all the noses feel nicer!
Stuffy nose: Our little Walter woke up every few hours the first night his cold was really bad, and he was still so tired that, after sitting up to insist in baby body language that he was awake, he would then actually fall over. It was so very sad! He couldn’t breathe through his poor little nose. The only solution I have for the clogged nose is the Nosefrida Snotsucker. Yes, it’s gross. Yes, it’s weird. Go buy one. And an extra for the diaper bag. Nothing works better, and no other nasal aspirator is as safe (the ones that go into Baby’s nose can cause injuries when he makes sudden motions, which he will do, because all babies seem to hate having things touch their noses.) You will be disgusted and amazed at the amount of snot that comes out of your child, but it will be out and neatly contained. We have a saline spray on hand that is meant to clear the baby’s sinuses, but thankfully, his nose went from stuffy to runny very quickly. We didn’t have to try that, but I know that squirting saline solution works on me, so I’m assuming that if you had three people to hold down the baby while you used the saline-up-the-nose can, it would effectively unclog a lot of gross stuff. I bought this, rather than make a solution or use the aforementioned bottle of saline, because many a parent has said that the shape of the can makes it easier to get saline into the baby’s nose, quickly. I just can’t really picture successfully doing this.
Medicine for cough or fever: This is hugely controversial, so I’m going to repeat my original advice and say that doing what feels right to you and fits within your doctor’s guidelines (both!) is the way to go.
That said, I’ll share what my family does. We give medicine for teething pain and fever as a test, first (three teeth came in during this stupid cold!); this test is my favorite way our pediatrician puts my mind at ease. If our normally very happy baby is fussy and miserable with his illness, but he goes back to his old self after the Tylenol or Motrin kicks in, then Walt is ok. Doc says that the really scary illnesses have a big impact on the baby, to the point where treating the symptoms doesn’t help enough to let them smile and play a little. That seems really intuitive to me, so I love this test. We don’t like giving too much medicine, because I worry about his little body processing the medicine and fighting off the cold. We freely alternate Tylenol and Motrin in order to get our child good rest, if he is too fussy to fall asleep or stay asleep. WE need our rest, too, because we’re usually sick right along with him. Everyone needs sleep, and I will do pretty much anything to get it!
If coughing is keeping him awake, I give Walt a little bit of homeopathic cough syrup that doesn’t have any honey in it. Children under a year old are not supposed to have honey, because commercial bees/honey can carry botulism that tiny immune systems are not developed enough to fight off. I like the homeopathic remedies, because I grew up with them. Because of the way homeopathy works (a post in and of itself, for someone more knowledgeable to write) it is harder to overdose with these remedies, and they rarely contain artificial colors. I try to avoid artificial colors in general, but I get especially cranky about companies using them in medicine and vitamins for babies. The baby is going to fight us, even if the medicine is glow-in-the-dark, sparkly and rainbow colored. He doesn’t like the dosing syringe. Homeopathic brands generally avoid weird and unnecessary chemicals.
When Walt is older, I will just be giving him warm water with honey stirred into it. He loves homeopathic tablets for teething, so if I want to give him a remedy for his cough, I’ll do the cold/cough version of that plus the honey water (after his first birthday). Truly, the best way to help a cough that isn’t a bronchial infection is honey and water. Adding lemon tastes nice. A nurse explained to me that the cough often comes from the postnasal drip irritating the throat and lungs. If your doctor doesn’t think there’s anything actually wrong with the lungs, diluted honey will do everything over-the-counter cough medicine claims to do, and there is zero need to worry about dosage.
Humidifiers: A nice humidifier is so awesome. We don’t have one, but we used my sister’s, and it made such a difference! Definitely on my wish list. I have an intense mold/bacteria phobia, so I can’t bring myself to buy a cheap one. If it were winter, I would be putting pans of water on the radiators; this works just as well as any steaming electronic device, provided the room is not too large. You need actual radiators, though, and they have to be warm, so… that was not an option this August. The old trick of holding your head over a bowl of steaming water works, too, but not for babies, for obvious reasons.
Non-medicinal things that help us all feel nice and help parents feel like we are doing something include the following:
baths are great for feeling better (another cheap humidifier) and offer playtime for babies who like them. It gives us a chance to sit down and watch our ten-month-old play in the tub, because he loves the water and doesn’t give us a second glance once he’s in it. If we are also sick, we get the humidifier effect, too. All-around awesome, the nice warm bath!
Chest rub: I avoid Vicks, because it has weird stuff in it. What the heck is “turpentine oil” and why is it in there? (In fairness, it is not in the “baby” version.) Badger makes an Aromatic Chest Rub that is full of good, pronounceable, ingredients that are blended into a mixture of beeswax and natural oils, instead of the petroleum base Vicks uses. I bought the tin of Badger balm at Whole Foods; it feels great for everyone and travels well. (Note: I almost bought the wrong one, because there are several Badger balms, and the one for babies is a calming one. The chest rub is better for congestion.) Before too long, the adults were putting it behind our ears, on our temples, rubbing into our necks–it’s lovely. The tin looks small but goes a long way. If you are into DIY home remedies, there are pages of Google results for recipes. The Badger balm is definitely cheaper than investing in essential oils and contains all the helpful ones I’ve ever heard of, but if you have some oils anyway, making a big jar for your family seems like the way to go.
Essential Oils: I am not yet totally sure how to use “EOs” in a way that accesses their purported super healing properties, but I recently became obsessed with doTERRA, after smelling their booth at a conference. They have a blend of oils called “Breath” that feels amazing and provides instant relief to sore throats and chests when inhaled. Use it in a room diffuser (I have one from Aura Cacia that I like) if you’re new to EOs. There are different philosophies about whether it’s ok to put them on skin, baby skin, or to ingest them. Peppermint oil in a diffuser will help you feel better without requiring an education. You can safely add a drop or two of peppermint and/or lavender to a child’s bath without any risk, and it’ll feel great. If you’re interested in getting started with EOs, email me at annemarie (at) donotfaint (dot) com, and I’ll give you my contact for learning about how to use them medicinally. My basic understanding is that the less expensive brands are not good for medicinal use, but fine for making a room smell nice.
One or all of my family members have been sick for two weeks and counting. We have done different things at various points during this horrible virus cycle, but this list contains the helpful ones and their more helpful or more convenient or less expensive variations. I hope that this post will help you, the next time your child gets any of the symptoms we’ve experienced. I am also counting on referring back to this later, because my sick brain may not remember it all. I’m off to make some more tea. Please add any and all remedies you have tried in the comments! This was our baby’s first cold, so we can definitely use more tips on what to use and what to avoid!by