Three weeks ago, my daughter came home with a runny nose. She was up most of that night because the congestion in her nose kept waking her. The next day, I came down with the same cold. She was healthy again in two days. Thanks to asthma and exhaustion, I wasn’t feeling better for another two weeks. Just as I finally started to feel normal again, she came home from a play date with a runny nose, again. I sighed, groaned, and braced myself for the very real possibility of another week or two of sickness.
You know, after eight years of teaching middle school, I thought my immune system was pretty tough. Then, I had my daughter. Now, one cold a month is pretty common. I consider myself marked if I manage to go two or three months.
Incidentally, I’m not writing this post to whine about how many germs my child brings home. After chanting the tennets of sharing for so many years, we parents can’t really complain when our children finally comply. I’m writing this post to share ways that I have learned to survive what I call “toddler plague” and the rest of the world calls “the common cold.”
First of all, make your child as comfortable as possible. This seems like a no brainer, but it is very important. If you are up half the night because your kid can’t sleep, both of you are going to suffer longer as your body fights off the cold. Here are some other things I couldn’t go without the first year:
Breastmilk – If you are sick, breastfeed as much as you can. Your body makes antibodies to fight the virus and they pass through the milk. Even when she was only weeks old, my daughter never suffered from colds as much as I did. The antibodies helped her get well faster.
Saline Nose Drops – When Ariana was a baby, I kept saline nose drops in the medicine cabinet at all times. I started a new bottle with each cold, and promptly bought a new one as soon as I used up an old one. The saline flushes out the nose, allowing baby to breathe better. This helps with nursing and sleeping. It also makes aspirating the nose easier.
A Nasal Aspirator – Nasal aspirators suck the mucus out of the nose. They are very useful, but most kids absolutely hate them. I only ever used the traditional bulb kind, but I’ve read there are others on the market that are less unpleasant.
Once your adorable baby becomes a toddler, the rules change. Most children are weaned by their first birthday, so the antibodies from breastmilk no longer help. (If you are still breastfeeding your toddler- good for you!) To further complicate things, traditional cold medicines are no longer recommended for children under age four. So what else can be done? Saline is still an excellent option, if your child will allow you to us it. As Ariana has gotten bigger, her willingness to cooperate with such things has mostly disappeared and I have had to adapt. Here are a few things I’ve discovered:
Pediacare Gentle Vapors Plug In – This is a non-medicinal plug in vaporizer. It fills your child’s room with vapors of menthol, eucalyptus, camphor, lavender, and chamomile. I use it during naptime and bedtime to help Ariana breathe and sleep.
Hyland’s Homeopathic Remedies – Hyland’s has an entire line of homeopathic remedies for colds, coughs, allergies, etc. The age recommendations vary by product. I like Hyland’s Cold and Cough (for ages 2+). It really helps Ariana’s cold symptoms and it tastes good, so she doesn’t mind taking it.
Mattress Elevation – I stuffed about four towels under the mattress at the head of Ariana’s bed. The slight elevation helped with drainage during the night so she coughed less and slept more.
Boogie Wipes – These saline wipes do a great job of cleaning up runny noses. They are very gentle and won’t irriate the skin around the nose like repetitive use of tissues or baby wipes can. They also smell good.
And finally, for the exhausted, soon-to-be-sick parents:
Emergen-C – This wonderful product gives you an excellent immunity boost. I took it for a week after Ariana came home with that second runny nose. I still suffered fatigue and a few headaches, but my nose never ran and I largely dodged the worst of it.
Chocolate – Hey, you’re sick. You deserve it.