Our family is currently on the tail end of the worst illness our son has ever experienced.
He is 28 months old, and thankfully has not yet had an ear infection, or any other sort of secondary infection. (Common childhood secondary infections that take root after a cold or the flu are those caused by buildup of thick mucus which allow warm moist places for bacteria and yeast to grow and include sinus infections, ear infections, and pneumonia.)
Up until this point, I had not needed to call his pediatrician to ask for advice. He has had 2 fevers in his life, and his colds are usually very short in duration.
This time around however, is different.
We suspect he has the flu, as he started out with a fever and headache and slept for two days, and then the symptoms started flooding in- runny nose, sneezing, irritability, insomnia. We are now on day 7 of the ordeal.
Anyone with whom I’ve shared the fact that he’s never had an ear infection or been on antibiotic (or taken Tylenol for that matter) asks me how we’ve done it. It might seem like we go a little overboard, but I will do whatever it takes to make my son heal quicker and feel better.
I can’t be sure these are the reasons, but my husband and I both feel taking these steps have helped our son to not (yet) develop a secondary infection:
1. Keep him home. This may seem like a no-brainer, but since our kids can’t tell us how they feel, it is up to us to make the decision to let them rest. Lots of parents don’t do this. I have seen many a child coughing and sneezing with runny noses in the grocery store, at the playground, in the church nursery, in music class, etc., very obviously sick and miserable while the parents just go about their normal business. When we as adults are sick, we stay home. Our children deserve the same consideration. Yes, this is extremely inconvenient for the parents who have to clear off schedules and rearrange priorities, and we’ve even been balked at when we’ve made the decision to skip events to keep our son home, but he deserves the chance to heal.
2. Give him lots of fluids- especially coconut water, chamomile tea, chicken broth and water. All day. He usually won’t eat much food, which is fine with us as his body needs the energy to fight off the infection. We offer easy to digest food, but if he doesn’t take it, we don’t push. We also make a huge pot of Chicken and Rice Soup for the whole family to eat.
3. No baths during the worst part of the illness. A bath will be welcomed after a few days of feeling bad, but we we always avoid the bath in the beginning stages of a cold. The body has to work too hard to heat back up after getting out of the tub, and needs that energy to heal. The skin is also an important part of the immune system and secretes antibacterial substances. Of course we do frequently wash all of our hands (child included) and use a sponge bath for the face and bottom before bed.
4. Use the healing power of foods like those outlined by Dr. Laura Feder, such as the healing properties of onion and lemon. In her wonderful book Natural Baby and Childcare: Practical Medical Advice and Holistic Wisdom for Raising Healthy Children she writes, “Lemon is good for watery, thin discharges, tickly coughs, and bronchitis. It can be used as a steam inhalation, warm chest compress, or a throat wrap. Placing lemon slices near a radiator will help disperse oils throughout a room.”
5. Treat symptoms with homeopathic remedies and herbs which work with the body to heal, rather than just suppress symptoms. After all, the symptoms exist to rid the body of germs. From the Dr. Greene website symptoms are “the body’s attempt to get rid of the virus and to minimize damage. Sneezing ejects the virus from the nose, cough from the lungs and throat, vomiting from the stomach, and diarrhea from the intestines. Fever makes it difficult for the virus to reproduce.”
6. Lots of steam- in the form of a vaporizer, sitting in the bathroom with a hot shower on, and flooding the nose with preservative free saline nose spray, to keep the mucus moving and not let it become stagnant allowing bacteria to take a foothold.
7. Possibly the most important- lots of extra TLC!
None of this has been easy as I naturally worry about my child, have to deal with his emotions, comfort his physical ailments, and try to keep it together myself! It takes lots of support and patience and it’s been a rough week, but it looks like we are on the road to healing. He slept very well last night, woke up today without a cough or runny nose, and has his appetite back.