As I prepared the following post, so eloquently written and illustrated by my wonderful sister Patrice Heins longer ago than I care to admit, I was interrupted by a miserably rough fit of coughing, and a volley of angry tears, from a bedroom upstairs. My daughter has come down with her second or third cold of the season, and I assume I’m on my way to achieving the same tally. It's been a full week of this one in particular. Lydia meanwhile reports from Berlin that bird flu has arrived there. (!!) Needless to say we’re all bracing ourselves for the long winter ahead.
What follows is the first in a three part series of cold remedies and recipes. First we treat the babes, because Ines's fever won't break. Then the rest of us, because our suffering is just as real. We’ll conclude with a prescription for our favorite bone broth and a quick pot of rice. And an exhaustive list of hydrating foods we should all be shoveling into our mouths and the mouths of our loved ones the moment the next cold or flu (or anything in the middle) strikes us down.
Thank you for sticking with us despite our vast late silence. We’re working on a number of posts that remind us - despite the horrible apocalyptic feeling we’ve been having about the world, and a certain recent couple of elections - that we’re all human beings capable of (in grave need of) deep care and love.
Sick kids and babies are so sad. And exhausting. And sometimes (forgive me Henry and Evelyn, you’re perfect of course!) really very unpleasant. My son, Henry, recently brought his first real cold of the year home from preschool, which he immediately gave to the rest of us.
After a miserable few days, we are back on our feet; naturally, I feel like an expert on “surviving cold season.” Here are my top tips for making it through till spring:
- Small babies and binkie/finger suckers breathe primarily/exclusively through their noses. When congested, these guys suffer most. Get yourself misting saline and a Nose Frida. Put your baby on his/her back, spray the saline in each nostril, wait 30 seconds (perfect opportunity for a diaper change), and then use the Nose Frida to suck those boogers out.
- Get some vaporub on your baby’s chest and on the soles of the feet. Immediately put a shirt on and cover feet with socks or you will wonder why your entire house is covered in dark splotches.
- Make a warmer than usual bath and let your baby hang out as long as he/she is happy. Maybe get yourself in there too. Add a few drops of lavender oil if you like – but always remember to clear nose (see tip #1) right after. This is the very best way to get the gunk out.
- Don’t be afraid to use Tylenol or Motrin (if over 6 months) for fever. A sick baby can be a really sad baby. I understand not wanting to overdo the meds, but don’t feel badly about relieving some of their pain and discomfort with modern medicine. It can really improve morale. And sleep.
- If your baby is still small, wear them in a carrier. Being in an upright position helps him/her breathe better and allows snot to drain more easily.
- If your baby is older, don’t worry about screen time as much – whatever keeps your toddler still. Especially important if you are sick too. Henry could spend a whole morning playing videos on YouTube Kids if I let him.
- Don’t worry about how much your sick kid eats. It’s the liquids you should watch for: water down OJ or offer an electrolyte replacement drink if they are refusing water. I also do bone broth (chicken broth works too) in a bottle or sippy cup. If you want to get some calories in, try smoothies, watermelon, and popsicles.
- Put a humidifier in the baby’s room. Cut off the ceiling fans, which kick up dust and allergens. I use a warm mist humidifier because I think it is more effective, but keep it off the floor and out of reach if you have small kids or crawling babies.
- Wash your hands constantly. Wash the babies' lovies and sippy cups constantly too.
- Use diaper cream at the first sign of runny nose. I don’t know if this is medically factual, but I swear that runny noses cause diaper rashes. You can keep your baby’s bum happy by using a diaper cream followed by Aquaphor when you change diapers.
- A handful of marshmallows or a spoonful of honey soothes the throat for coughing kids. (HONEY IS OK FOR 12 MONTHS AND UP ONLY!)
- A lot of people tell you to put some books under one end of the crib to elevate the head. I have tried this a few times and my kids just ended up against the rails at the foot of the bed. Does this actually work for anyone? I am truly curious.
I’ll end by saying, don’t be afraid to go see your child’s pediatrician. When you’re worried about your baby, you can’t put a price on peace of mind. And hang in there – sunny days are ahead!