No matter how careful we are, kids get sick. So what do we do?
The first thing to do is to be aware that the child may be sick. There are some obvious clues but sometimes we feel the child is just acting up. She may have a fever or just cry. She may complain of pain or just act irritable. She may sleep a lot and eat little or just act listless. She may be sad and clingy. She may have a runny nose, a sore throat, a bump or bruise, a head ache, an ear ache, or a tummy ache. You know your child and what may be different. Be aware and take note.
Have a thermometer. The normal temperature is 98.6 degrees F. If the child’s temperature is above 100 degrees F, he probably has an infection of some kind. Another way to check a child’s temperature without a thermometer is to feel the back of the neck below the hairline. If it feels hot, you had better double check. Look for bumps, bruises, inflammations, rummy nose that is no longer clear, rashes, red throat, or red eyes. Trust complaints especially if they can’t be distracted.
With most illnesses it is just a waiting game. Keep the child as comfortable as possible. There is an old saying, “Starve a fever and feed a cold.” Those with a fever eat little but keep them drinking (clear liquids like Pedialite). The same is true for upset stomach or diarrhea. Don’t feed a child solids until diarrhea clears up and then start with bland foods like rice, toast,bananas, or chicken noodle soup. Those with a cold need good warm food like soup. Flu can last from 2 days to a week. Chicken Pox will cause fever and pox. The child needs to stay away from other kids until the pox are all scabbed over. It is likely to be a week. An ear infection needs antibiotics as may a sinus infection.
If you work, plan ahead to have place for a sick child to stay other than school or daycare. A child should not attend daycare with a fever, constant cough, colored mucus from nose, red or swollen eye, diarrhea, unknown rash, or head lice. Wait 48 hours after a child is on antibiotics before he or she returns to school or daycare. Child decongestants, cough suppressants, and pain relievers can be used but never use aspirin if there is any fear of flu as the combination can cause Rye Syndrome.
Germs are everywhere that children gather. The best prevention of childhood illnesses is the child own immunity. This can be helped with good nutrition, the proper amount of sleep, and good exercise. All children are different. Some seem to catch diseases easily and others have strong resistance to disease and rarely get sick.
Some germs travel through the air when someone coughs or sneezes. Others travel on hands to objects. Children need to learn to cover their mouths with their arm when they cough or sneeze. It is essential that they learn to wash hands after using the bathroom and before eating. Soap and water are so much more thorough that hand sanitizer.
Most pediatricians recommend vaccinations to protect against dangerous diseases like mumps,measles, rubella, diphtheria, polio, tetanus, and pertussis (whooping cough). In addition flu vaccinations in the fall (they must be renewed yearly) and chicken pox vaccinations provide further protection. We live in a great era where few children are lost or incapacitated by frightening diseases of old.
When to Call the Doctor
If a child has a high fever for more that 24 hours and you can’t bring it down with fever reducing medicine and cold compresses, she may need antibiotics. If she has an open wound that is longer than an inch or will not stop bleeding or oozing, she may need stitches. Coughs, colored mucus, ear infections, or diarrhea that will not respond to over the counter medications may need antibiotics. Another concern that may need a doctor’s help is an unidentified rash. Unless it is an emergency, you can wait awhile and see if the child’s own immensities can conquer it. There are frightening hurry up cases that need first aid and those will be covered in a later blog.
Most clinics now have an “Ask a Nurse” service if you are not sure what to do. If the nurse is unsure, she or he will advise you to come into the clinic. Many health communities and organizations publish a book with hints of what to do about specific symptoms and if you need a doctor. I found our booklet, Healthy Life Self-Care, very helpful when my son had a rash in his crouch area, He wore his wet swimming suit almost all the time in the summer as we had an outdoor pool. I recognized from the book that he had a rash nicknamed “jock itch” and needed to dry off and change clothes after swimming. Now, most advise you need can be found on line. Be careful that you are reading information from reliable sources.
And so, we as parents can handle the illnesses of our children with some preparation,information, and guidance. You too, can be a supermom.