Author: Melissa Feldmeyer
Few things strike fear into the hearts of a working mom more than seeing that missed call from your child’s daycare of school. Odds are they are not calling in the middle of the day to tell you how awesome your kid is.
There are usually 3 different calls: 1- Your child was bit or bumped their head and the school legally must notify you. 2- They have a fever or 3- They are barfing.
I know it sounds bad… but I am kind of relieved when I get call number 1. Call numbers 2 and 3 send life into a frenzy of moving around meetings, packing some work to take home for an undefined period of time and trying to get to your baby as fast as you can to give them your motherly comfort.
As the weather turns colder and I start hearing a symphony of sniffles wherever I go, and especially as we get groups together in close quarters for some quality family time this holiday- I instinctively cling to those last five PTO days tighter than I cling to my coffee cup each morning. I dream of a world where I can use those to stay home with my family between Christmas and New Year and snuggle all day on the couch in our pj’s in a post-Christmas glow. But- this is not a world I live in, and almost every year I am really living on the edge by late December, hoping that 3.5 remaining hours of PTO will carry me through to when midnight strikes on January 1st because 1 kid gets sick, then the other one gets sick, and then I get sick …but still have to go to work…. because I don’t have any time off left! But I feel like at long last we have turned a corner, as my children’s immune systems have buffed up and I’ve learned some tricks after 5 Wisconsin winters of momm-ing and having children that have on more than one occasion, sneezed directly into my mouth. So I will share with you my non-medical expert tips for trying to stay healthier as a family this winter and how to have a less miserable household when someone does get sick (because of course that is going to happen). Again- no med school here- just what has worked for me and my family- so please share your own tips too, because there really isn’t much I wouldn’t try to keep my team healthy!
Preparing….. Winter is coming. (Really… it is. Be ready).
You always hear that prevention is key. But again, I feel like there is only so much you can do, short of cutting your child off from all human contact. And I’m sure even then, a germ or two would sneak in. Kids have to build up their immune system and there isn’t really a way around that. Only through. And kids are still learning to be people- they aren’t going to be perfect at always remembering things like washing their hands, and even if they are- there are always other kids that aren’t.
But there are some things you CAN do that can help reduce the risk, so that maybe instead of getting every cold that goes around day care, maybe this year they’ll only get like… every other cold. Progress can be slow people, but it’s still progress.
Washing Hands- Obvious of course, but very important. I make my kids watch the Curious George episode about germs every so often- those germs have a blues band called “Toots and the Germettes” that sing about how germs get and stay in your body. It’s actually a pretty catchy tune…. And then I remind them about washing their hands so Toots doesn’t get in! It makes it more relatable for them. Sort of a Boogeyman story (pun totally intended). And because we do have a surprisingly high amount of time that we’re going to eat and snack with no sink available- I get those fancy mermaid unicorn glitter little hand sanitizers and fun holders they can attach to their backpacks from Bath and Body Works so that they actually look forward to using them. If they need to smear purple glitter all over their hands in order for them to remember to use the stuff- so be it.
Vitamins- I have one child that is a picky eater and one that will eat anything. I do have them both take a children’s vitamin each day, but also try to make sure they are getting plenty of all the vitamins they need – especially the C, during cold season! Lot of oranges and orange juice in our house! And sometimes sneaking greens in the strawberries smoothies (shhhhh- never tell them!).
Stock Up- Before anyone actually gets sick, each fall I like to make sure I have all the essentials on hand that I need in case someone does get sick. Kids don’t get sick at our convenience- and at my house it is usually in the middle of the night or when my husband is out of town. Neither are the best times for making a run to the store. If you make sure you have extra tissues, extra batteries if you use an electronic thermometer, fever reducers/other medicines you know and love, soups, etc., your future self will thank you.
Handling the colds:
Sneeze and Cough Like a Vampire- When sneezes and coughs comes, a memorable way for your kids to do so without getting germs on their hands that will touch things that other people will use, or to get them in the air (or my mouth….) is to show them how to cough and sneeze into the crook of their arm (like a vampire who is pulling their cape across their face). If you or they want to add a vampire-y “muahaha” laugh afterwards…. All the better. They do say laughter is the best medicine after all.
I’m pretty serious about making sure they are covering their mouths- I feel like I yell “COVER YOUR MOUTH!!!” so often that if they do forget and I forget to say it, they pause and stare at me like an actor who has missed their line. So I know it is slowly but surely sinking in their little minds.
NoseFrida– For the little ones… unless your 5 year old will let you use it on them too… which I doubt. When I first saw this I thought it was the most disgusting idea ever. But when you see your baby all stuffed up- you just want them to feel better. And this works much better than those suction bulbs so it’s easier to get over the ick factor.
Cool Mist Humidifier– Once the colds are gone, those night coughs can continue for a loooong time and they can keep the whole house awake and prevent your little one from getting the sleep they need. Invest in a cool mist humidifier if you don’t already have one…. They really do help with those coughs!
Handling the barfs:
Before I had kids…. I was terrified of vomit. If I were Superman and Lux Luther started throwing up during battle, I would start gagging and run away saying “Sorry guys, I can’t do this, save the world yourselves, and tell me when it’s all cleaned up please so I can come back.” I just.could.not.handle.it.
But as we know- motherhood changes you, and while it is not my favorite family activity, my love for my sick children overcomes all… and my past self would be very proud of my now self.
But I also want it all out of my house as quickly as possible….
When someone gets it in my house, there is a very strict protocol to keep it from spreading arounds.
- Towels – Gather all the towels in the house. Put them on all the furniture, beds, etc. It is much easier to gather and toss some towels in the wash than try to scrub that out of your couch cushions. Which of course I learned the hard way.
- Quarantine Whether it’s their bed, your bed, or the couch, try to get them to stay in one area as much as possible. Keep those germs in 1 location. No one except me can touch the sick one. If I could make my house into the scientist scene from ET I would do it….
- Containment – Have a specific bowl/bucket/etc. that you keep under the sink for just such an occasion. Keep that close as possible to sick child AT ALL TIMES. All times. No more that like 2 feet away from them.
- Bleach Cleaner – Those viruses are tough and will linger on surfaces. Maybe there is some natural organic lovely cleaner I don’t know about. But I want those germs as dead as they can be and I know this gets the job done. Door knobs, all surfaces I know have been touched by my sick child. The one upside to the barfs is that my house gets a good cleaning!
- Take it Easy – On both introducing liquids and food. One mistake I made early on was being so concerned that they were going to get dehydrated that I tried to give them liquids too soon after throwing up. And it would make them sick again earlier because their tummies weren’t ready to have anything in there yet. Wait 30 minutes after they throw up before letting them try a little water. Wait 5-10 minutes. If all is well let them have a little more water. Wait 5-10 more minutes. Repeat as needed depending on if they can keep it down. With food- I wait a few hours after the last episode and try like 1 plain old cracker. Then if an hour passes- here’s another. Like they are parrots. Better safe than sorry…..
Also…grape juice. One thing I had read is that if you know the stomach flu is going around your kid’s school, or if one person has gotten sick in your family but no one else has symptoms- that if you drink 3 glasses of 100% grape juice (it has to be the real deal- no cocktail) a day for a week around the exposure time, that something in the grapes can prevent you from getting the bug. I thought it was a little farfetched- BUT I have tried it a few times now and it has actually worked. Maybe its luck, maybe its grapes… whatever it is, I’ll keep trying it. Plus, grape juice is delicious. The only thing better is if wine could count as “grape juice”.
Handling keeping yourself healthy:
This is the whole putting your oxygen mask on before helping others deal. Nothing makes us feel worse than seeing our little ones sick. And while their immune systems are growing and developing- hopefully we’re able to fend things off a little better. But we can only do that if we’re taking care of ourselves. Remember a few blogs back when I said we need to BYOM’s? Be Our Own Moms. Especially when we are playing nurse to our babies and snuggling their germ ridden bodies- we need to make sure WE are taking our vitamins and greens and drinking enough liquids and that WE are getting good rest and washing our hands. And if/when you get whatever they have, give yourself as good of care as you have given your little ones. I know that’s so hard because we can’t call a “timeout” Saved by the Bell style where everything freezes while we recuperate…. But if you try to push through- it will take longer to get better and can make you even sicker (I’ve been there).
Just think ahead to that glorious year in the future where your PTO will be able to once again be used for actual vacation to help get you through the tough times! It will happen and you can get through this! All of us moms are in the same boat with this germy season… and hopefully we’re all packing tissue and hand sanitizer on this boat.