The cold and flu season is upon us. With a kid in daycare, I am approaching this season with a strong sense of foreboding. Last year, I caught every cold Susan brought home, had a couple of sinus infections, and experienced my finest hour overnight in the hospital as a result of a skull fracture and concussion. The latter was not caused by a cold (instead by the stomach bug she brought home), but the rest were all rhinovirus-related.
However, it is tough to feel sorry for yourself when your kid is suffering so much. And I say that because we, the adults, can take Nyquil, Dayquil, Sudafed, Robitussin or whatever we need to treat the symptoms that are making us feel so yucky. What can your infant/toddler take? NOTHING. Well almost nothing. Really there are no cold medicines that a child under four can take, but there are a few things you can do for your kid to help her feel a little more comfortable, especially at night.
1. Vapo Rub. We actually used an entire jar of this stuff last winter. After a few days of a runny nose, your child will likely develop a cough. It is so pitiful to hear your baby coughing all night through the monitor. So whether your sweet little one sleeps in footie pajamas or regular pajamas, if they have a cough (or you think might start coughing), rub vapo rub on his feet and cover his feet with socks or footie pajamas. Also slather some vapo rub on his chest too. But putting it on his feet and covering his feet up is what will help the most with the cough. Why does this work? I don't know. Probably science.
2. Prop his crib. We used some of our old yearbooks (two or three) to prop Susan’s mattress in her crib. Her crib basically stayed propped all winter. Sometimes in the night, she would reverse herself (position herself "downhill" so to speak). We could tell because she would start hacking and coughing suddenly in the middle of the night. One of us (Chris) would then go upstairs to turn her back "uphill." She never really woke up during these rotations, and they were essential if we wanted to go back to sleep.
3. Johnson and Johnson Soothing Vapor Bath. This stuff was great for bath time. It just helped make her feel comfortable.
4. Humidifier. There is a lot of debate about cold air v. warm air humidifiers. My advice is this: if your kid is still in the crib (and will probably be in the crib for a little longer), go ahead and get a warm air humidifier. We used Vicks Warm Mist Humidifier all last winter. I liked it because I could also add Vapo Steam to the water (1/2 tbsp.) to help her room stay nice and mentholy. We kept it on the floor in the middle of her room. It was quiet and worked great. We will use it again this winter, unless it looks like she is about to climb out of her crib. Then we will switch to the cold air humidifier. We used a cold air humidifier this summer (the warm air really does warm their bedroom up too), and it was obvious that the warm air was much better for congestion. It was just more effective.
5. Saline spray and snozzle. Hopefully you saved your snot sucker that the hospital sent home with you. Susan has a love-hate relationship with this thing. Sometimes she is very patient and puts up no fuss. Other times, she screams and flails as if I were pulling her toenails off one by one (diva). Typically with colds, we spray one shot of saline spray into each nostril, count to five, and then snot suck. Sometimes this works out better than others.
6. Be sure to have lots of tissues handy. We also ended up buying a couple of bulk boxes of the good Kleenex with lotion and sent them for her classroom. All those infants just looked so pitiful with their raw noses, and those terrible cardboard tissues weren’t making it any better. So be sure to have a couple of the really soft Kleenex with Lotion or Puffs with Lotion tissues ready for cold season. The tissues are for the parents too, but mostly you will want to keep a couple in your pockets, purse, car, etc., because your little one will be a faucet of snot.
7. Water (or Pedialyte). Hopefully your little one likes water. It's Susan's other drink when she isn’t enjoying “molk” at mealtimes. Keeping your bebe hydrated during a cold is essential. I would steer clear of sugary juices and stick with water. Or you can mix a sippee cup with half water, half Pedialyte. But keep baby hydrated. It will help get rid of that cold faster.
Lastly, if this will be your first winter with sweet baby, you will want to watch for ear infections. First major colds can often lead to the first ear infection. Symptoms will range from grabbing ears, to screaming bloody murder when lying flat (like a diaper change), general crankiness and fever. It’s pitiful but if your sweet one does end up with an infection, you will be thankful for those antibiotics that help her feel better.
And for parents, seriously do a lot of hand washing, for you and for baby. It really will help. And go ahead and start taking your Vitamin C supplement. We are.