A Mama’s Guide to Cold & Flu Season

rawpixel-1113214-unsplashWhether you’re a thieves or a bleach household, nothing breaks a mama heart quite like a sick baby. And nothing makes you feel more helpless than those all nighters with a coughing, stuffy, bodily fluid excreting little that you cannot trade places with …until a few days later when you inevitably get it too. I am by no means an expert and nothing in this post should replace the advice of your pediatrician, but I can promise all the information is scientifically sourced. I get a few a lot of texts from mamas when their kids are sick due to my background as a pediatric nurse. I would say the panicked curious texts occur in the greatest numbers after pediatricians offices close, on the weekends or over holidays. You know, when kids get sick! So here is my quick guide to cold and flu season highlighting the most common subjects of those text messages.

My child has a fever. What should I do?

A fever is not a sickness in and of itself, but rather a symptom. It can be a scary one, especially when you see your child not feeling well. A fever is a temperature of 100.4 or greater. As great of mom super powers as you have (and I am totally guilty of this) you cannot guess a fever with your hand on your kiddo’s forehead. You actually have to take it. Generally speaking, managing the symptoms of the underlying illness are all you have to do for a fever. Keep your child comfortable, stay calm, and make sure he or she remains well hydrated (fevers make children dehydrate more quickly). Young infants (less than 12 weeks) should be seen by pediatricians immediately for fevers as should any child with changes in behavior or consciousness. Read more at Fever Without Fear.

What is the difference between Tylenol and Motrin?

Piggybacking off our last topic, the most common reason I have given either of these medicines as a mama is either teething associated pain or fever. To understand which one to chose its good to know how they differ.

Tylenol/Acetaminophen is one of the oldest pain medicines we have for kids. It’s also one of the safest! I love safety swoon. Tylenol is best used for pain and for its antipyretic properties which is a fancy way of saying fever reducer. The main caution with Tylenol is liver toxicity (ie don’t use for a wine hangover if you’re post thirty- if you’re younger than this you’ll understand someday) so pay close attention to either the box dose or your pediatrician’s recommendations for dosage. Cliff notes: Give for pain or fever. Give the right amount every 4-6 hours.

Motrin/Ibuprofen is part of a drug class called NSAIDs which are anti-inflammatory medications or medications that reduce swelling/inflammation. I really like Motrin for teething associated discomfort for this reason because of the gum swelling that occurs. Motrin also is a great fever reducer. Motrin cannot be given to children under six months of age. Cliff notes: Give for pain or fever in children over six months every 6-8 hours.

When you need to use both medications, say for a stubborn fever or to maximize pain control you may alternate. This is probably the number one question I get: These are two different medications, you will have the best coverage if the doses are spaced out, but there is no set time frame for how close or how far apart they have to be when you alternate Motrin and Tylenol. You’re thinking too hard, mama.

Do we need antibiotics?

Maybe, but probably not. I say this with a major caveat. No one can answer that question via text message. A question like that requires an exam. We, as loving mamas of our littles, want to fix them when they are sick. We want to kiss the booboo and make it all better. The thing that sucks, and that’s the right word for it sucks is that most illnesses this time of year are viruses. Antibiotics only treat bacterial infections. The Flu (influenza), RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus/Bronchiolitis), Croup and so many others cannot be fixed with antibiotics. If you take an antibiotic with a virus and get better, that’s coincidence. Only your pediatrician can tell you if you need antibiotics. They are well educated and follow the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for prescribing those medications. And please, please don’t go in there demanding them. They have risks so if they aren’t what your child needs, then you don’t want them.

Here are a few other points I would like to add in for good measure:

-Don’t send your child to school/a birthday party/etc sick. Generally schools have a handbook that dictates criteria for returning healthy. In most cases its 24 hours after symptoms have resolved.

-If your child gets sick after a play date and you let the other mama know, that’s kind of you. If someone let’s you know, respond with grace. These things happen. Unless its a pattern, make like Taytay and Shake It Off.

-For real, you don’t need a ZPack every time you sneeze (or albuterol, but that’s a whole other rant.)

-Get a flu shot (and all your shots) and you know you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. If you do not know this, I would love to give you some peer reviewed resources on why this is so.

-The NoseFrida is your friend. Know her. Love her. Use her to treat all the snotty baby illnesses.

-Text a friend anytime. No one can do motherhood alone.

I would say those are the big three: fever, medications, and antibiotics. I hope this has been a helpful roundup of information. Most importantly you are the mama. You know your baby like no one else. If something doesn’t feel right, you know in your gut. I don’t know a pediatrician I respect that would ever be upset with a peace of mind phone call.

Special thanks to my medical friends who assisted with this post!

Find more helpful health information for your kids at https://www.healthychildren.org/English/Pages/default.aspx

 

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