Friday, October 2, 2009

Cough and cold season...and sleepless nights

The wonders of fall have ushered in cooler weather along with coughs, runny noses and aches and pains. It started with me. Despite the fact I’d been coughing for weeks, I still decided to join the family at a local amusement park on Saturday. It was Military Appreciation Day and tickets were discounted to only $13 each (a savings of over $20/person). My husband and I, along with two of our daughters and their husbands, eagerly bought our tickets a month or so ago, eager to introduce our first grandbaby to the joys of Kennywood! What we didn’t anticipate was a cold, miserable, rainy day.

Armed with sweatshirts, umbrellas and ponchos, we ventured out and enjoyed a soggy day of fun riding roller coasters and carousels and squeezing into Kiddie Land rides with Laura. The evening was spent drying off over dinner at our house followed by Sunday morning at church together. We squeezed into a booth for lunch before parting ways. At this point, I was the only one not feeling well.

On Tuesday, when my son-in-law picked up his daughter from my house, I handed over a very fussy…and sick…baby. That night I found out my daughter, Bethany, was had a sore throat and was coughing. Yesterday it hit Laura’s mommy, then her daddy and finally, my husband came home from work today, sniffling and hacking. Everybody’s miserable.

Sound familiar? Ah yes, it’s cold season. It’s bad enough when we, as adults, get sick, but it’s even worse when our babies start sneezing and coughing. We can’t load them up with OTC meds, so what can we do?

Unless your normally healthy baby is spitting out thick mucus that’s bloody or green, is pulling at her ears, has a sore throat that’s bright red, or a fever that doesn’t respond to acetaminophen or ibuprofen, there’s no point in hauling her off to the pediatrician’s office. For infants under 4 months, a fever worth noting would be 101° or higher; 101°-104° for at least a full day for babies older than this.

So what does this mean? Basically you’re on your own. Not what you wanted to hear…especially if you’ve been up pacing the floor with a whining little one. But there some things you can do to help ease the discomfort.

First of all, if you’re breastfeeding, you already know that colds aren’t a common occurrence with your child since breast milk gives your baby antibodies which are vital in fighting infections and strengthening his immune system. But since most babies will get at least one cold before their first birthday, it’s good to know breast milk has another function…it’s perfect for breaking up the mucus in your baby’s nostrils. Seriously. Just aim and squirt and let the enzymes go to work. Your baby will nurse much more comfortably once he’s able to breathe through his nose!

An alternate to the breast milk flushing is to use infant saline drops. Use them about 15 minutes before feeding your baby. Simply (like it’s ever simple) tilt your baby’s head back and instill a few drops in each nostril. There’s also a great new product out called saline gel, widely available in retail stores. You just rub a little gel on the outside and a little bit inside the nostrils. This is soothing to your child’s sore nose as well as helpful in relieving some of the stuffiness.

Of course, steam helps your little one breathe better, just like it does for you. Running a hot shower while sitting in a closed bathroom with your baby will create a steam room perfect for temporary relief. Stay in the room for about 15 minutes. You can also try a cool mist humidifier in the nursery. This works by keeping the air moist and preventing the secretions from drying out. Make sure you use filtered or distilled water in the humidifier.

If your baby seems to be achy (you know how you feel when you’re sick), try giving her a warm bath followed by a gentle full body massage. This will help to relax her and ease some of the discomfort that accompanies a cold. Don’t expose her to chilly air, however, as this would be totally counterproductive.

To help your baby, and you, get some sleep, you might want to raise the end of the crib mattress by placing rolled up towels or a pillow under the mattress. Do not put a pillow in the crib with your baby! Also, don’t raise one end of the crib by putting something under the legs, as this can result in an unstable crib, posing a potential danger to your baby. If your little one seems comfortable enough in his carseat, strap him in there for the night, or in his swing, as sleeping in a more upright position might help him to breathe easier.

For all of you parents out there who are living through this experience right now…God bless you. Sleepless nights are just part of the package. But just wait…this type of sleepless night beats pacing the floor at 2 a.m. wondering where your teenage daughter is any day!

Wishing you a good night’s sleep,


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