Eleven years and two sons in, I know a few things about sick kids. First and foremost – they are inevitable. No matter your lifestyle, diet or culture, your kids will get catch something, probably from another child, and get sick. Your best chance to survive their childhood is to be prepared.
By being prepared I mean I reckon every parent needs the following in their arsenal at all times: age appropriate paracetamol [Panadol] and ibuprofen [Nurofen], an age-appropriate and recommended anti-histamine, hydralite icy poles or sachets, bandaids, the number of an out-of-hours locum doctor, a reliable GP or local medical clinic, a list of any medications your child may be allergic to, a bucket, Glen-20 anti-bacterial spray, a thermometer and a thick skin.
If you’ve got all that, then you just need to remember these tips and you may get through the year without wanting to run off into the bush to escape all germs for the rest of your lives (though I promise that will cross your mind at least once when you’re drowning in the fifth virus your child[ren] have brought home that school term).
1. They get sick at the worst times
Right before a big event or just as you’ve booked an important work meeting or your bi-annual pap smear are the times that children are most likely to get sick. You can count on your plans being completely fucked at least half a dozen times a year and you can double that number with each extra child you have. You can’t plan for it either. Just don’t think you’re anything special when it happens to you. You’re not. You’re just a parent. Suck it up and cancel those plans buddy.
2. It’s always worse at night
This seems like pure sorcery doesn’t it? Kids can go from just being a bit flat and lethargic to a full-blown ebola outbreak the moment the sun goes down… or you fall asleep – which ever comes first. I don’t really understand the science in this. Perhaps there isn’t any but there really isn’t any escaping it either. If your kid is showing signs of illness during the day, then bunker down for the evening. This includes making sure you have enough medicine [yours and theirs] before the shops shut [learnt THAT one the hard way!]
3. Infections come on REALLY fast
This is another disturbing realisation. Bacterial infections multiply at a rate of knots in kids. It’s almost scary. I’ve watched my son complain of ear pain to having TWO burst eardrums in a matter of hours [at night of course]. The best thing you can do if you suspect an infection is to get a doctor to prescribe anti-biotics as soon as possible. Because as fast as those infections come on, the drugs seem to stop them just as quickly. Symptoms of any infection include: localised pain, fever, drowsiness, rash and extreme whingeing. In younger, non-verbal children they will often indicate where the infection is by pulling at or rubbing that area. In older children/husbands there may be declarations along the lines of “I think I’m dying.”
4. Panadol will become your best friend
Oh Panadol, how do I love thee? I have used age-appropriate doses of Panadol since my children were tiny babies. The effectiveness with which it stops a fever in its tracks is astounding and the most help a parent can get when their child is really sick. My eldest hated it when he was little though and would bring it up every time I gave it to him.
TIP: doctors recommend that you DON’T redose your child if they bring up their medication as you can’t be sure of how much they did ingest, risking overdose.
I would not be thwarted though! They make Panadol in suppository form. *cunning smile* You know what that means right? Any time my son’s fever was too high or he was in pain from infection [throat, ears etc] I just popped him on the change the table and gave him a little paracetamol pressie. Yep, right up the kazoo. My husband couldn’t do it [soft] but I was the master… and ruthless!
5. You can give paracetamol and ibuprofen at the same time
This is a big tip and one that I’m surprised many parents are unaware of. You can give your child paracetamol [Panadol] AND ibuprofen [Nurofen] within the same dosage period. Eg, let’s say you give your child the correct dose of Panadol and after about an hour they are still in pain and/or their fever has not reduced. You can then give them the correct dose [within the usual Panadol dosage period of 4 hours] of Nurofen AS WELL. You DO NOT have to wait. They are two completely different medications and are often used concurrently by medical staff in hospitals. In fact, that’s where I first learnt about it. I have since confirmed it, regularly, with specialists, locum doctors and my own trusted GP. This is incredibly valuable information and could make all the difference during a night of sheer hell.
6. Locum doctors are travelling angels
I have had the best experience with on-call locum doctors. When my kids have been really sick outside of normal consulting hours travelling locum doctors have come TO MY HOUSE and carried out their consultation at my kid’s bedside. It is a sensational service and I highly recommend it. One doctor even let my youngest sleep through the entire consultation as he checked his ears and temp and listened to his breathing when he was really sick one night. It was seriously amazing and I would have hugged him if we weren’t both kneeling on the carpet in a lamp-lit bedroom in the middle of the night… #awkward. They often have at least a couple of doses of anti-biotics in their bag of tricks that will get you through til morning and the peace of mind they bring without having to traipse into an emergency department is worth its weight in gold.
7. The emergency department is hell on earth in the middle of the night
I have seen the emergency department in the middle of the night many times in my parenting life. It is never fun. I am usually there for HOURS, waiting, with any number of other parents with their sick kids. There’s screaming and crying and sleeping in every corner of the waiting area. All parents are processing their own internal triage to try to suss out where their kid sits in priority to others. There are lots of hot babies in nappies and singlets sitting on their parent’s lap. There are prams everywhere and exhausted adults and nurses who have seen it all before. Probably just last night. I get all OCD in emergency departments and won’t let my kid touch anything public that I haven’t wiped down first and when I get home I change them out of anything there were wearing in hospital in case they’ve brought home meningitis combined with gastro and polio. This is why, unless it’s an actual emergency, I call out a locum instead.
8. Back rubbing is certain
Oh the back rubbing that goes on when your child is sick. “Rub my back, Mum” is the chant of the sooky child.
9. Losing sleep is inescapable
Expect to lose lots of sleep and prepare for it. Go to bed early yourself if you can. Make sure all medicine is easily accessible and all syringes/medicine cups are clean for the midnight run. If your child has gastro [oh that hideous, hideous thing] do as I do and set up camp with a bucket in the lounge room. They’ll be chucking their guts up about every half an hour so settle in for a night vomitous hell.
10. Fevers can be scary
My kids have never actually convulsed from their fever but they do get a bit twitchy and glassy eyed. Anything over 38 degrees and I go in HARD and fast to try to get it down as soon as possible. This includes stripping them down to underwear and placing a cold flannel on their forehead and pulse points if required.
11. They won’t want to eat
Kids will listen to their bodies and will tell you when they’re hungry. If they don’t want a meal, don’t force it. Keep them going with crackers, jellies, mild fruits like watermelon and soups. Let them guide you, within reason but remember the most important thing is to keep them hydrated. A dehydrated child can get into trouble very quickly.
12. Gastro often presents at both ends
At the same time. It can be a total, revolting, explosive nightmare. The best way to tackle that, if your child is toilet-trained, is to pop them on the toilet when they’re ready to spew and let them vomit in a bucket while it comes out the other end straight into the loo.
13. Mother’s instinct is a diagnostic tool
You know your child. Trust that. I can tell when my kids are getting sick before they even know it. I also know what they’re susceptible to. One runs hot and one runs cold so their fever temperatures are different. I will happily question a doctor’s diagnosis if I’m not happy with it and will seek a second opinion without a blink of an eye. You know your child. If all you’ve got to go on is that they just don’t seem right then go with it and don’t stop until they’re right again. Better to err on the side of neurosis, I always say.
14. Kid’s germs travel
They will cry on you and sneeze on you and dribble on you and even vomit on you. The amount of germ-infested body fluids that you will be covered with will be hard to avoid. All I can say is wash your hands as much as possible. Don’t share pillows or cutlery and wash all the bed linen and towels as soon as possible without being a nutcase. But know that even with all possible precautions made, statistics show that you will get at least half of your kids lurgies every year.
Just pray their father doesn’t get them too.