Saturday, April 12, 2014

First Time Being Sick, Ever

When Jude woke from his nap I could tell something was wrong. He wasn't playing or talking in the nursery like he usually does. When I went in, rather than standing at the side of his crib, bouncing up and down with a smile, he just sat there and whined. I went over to comfort him and pick him up. I gave him a hug and could feel how hot his skin was against mine. Not ten seconds later he puked. All over me, at least a liter -- the entirety of his lunch, snack, and milk.

We cleaned him up and gave him some juice to try to rehydrate him. He was eager to drink and it stayed down. For about thirty minutes he just cuddled with me on the floor, watching Sesame Street while laying in my lap. Then he sat up and started to complain again. I offered him more juice, but he refused. Then he leaned forward and barfed up all the juice he had drank earlier. From that point on he refused all food and drink. Luckily I got him to take a dose of Tylenol.

He was exhausted by bedtime and went down quickly. Thankfully. We left Grandma Eileen to watch over him and ran to the store to pick up some Pedialyte, since it was pretty obvious we were going to need some, and more Tylenol since he'd been nursing what remained of that bottle for months on end.

The next morning he woke up three hours earlier than normal, he had thrown up a little in his sleep, and threw up a little more when I lifted him out of the crib. I cleaned him up and sat with him on the floor all morning watching Sesame Street. I got him to drink some Pedialyte and a few hours later, barf-free, I gave him 1/4th of a banana. He warily ate it. He managed to keep it down, though, so I gave him another 1/4th and he ate that too. I got him down for his nap, but he only stayed down for about ten minutes. Then he was up screaming and crying. I was worried he'd throw up again if he worked himself up too much, so I went in to try to soothe him back to sleep. He was clearly very, very tired and very, very upset about it. Regardless he would not fall back asleep. He would just begin to doze off and then abruptly whimper and cry himself awake.

I finally resigned myself to an afternoon with a sick and over-tired toddler. I got him to eat a Saltine and drink some more Pedialyte but other than that is was disinterested in food. Which is good, dehydration is the dangerous part of being sick for anyone, toddlers included. I knew the moment he became sick that it was probably viral and (too young for antivirals) the only treatment is keeping him hydrated while Nature takes its course.

There's a thing about fevers most people don't seem to know: they're actually good for you when you're sick. The fever is not the virus or bacteria, the fever is your immune system's response to the pathogen. It's one of your body's deadliest weapons for foreign invaders. Breaking a fever at the first sign of it actually slows recovery down. It is best to let a fever remain untreated so long as it's under 101 Fahrenheit. Even in young children. The only time you should administer Tylenol or Ibuprofen is when the fever exceeds that temperature or other symptoms are too uncomfortable for you or your child to get any sleep. Because sleep is also key to recovering in a timely fashion. You'll note the only time Jude got Tylenol on Day 1 was right before bed, so he could sleep well. Day 2 would be different.

As we were bravely toughing out our second hour with an over-tired, sick toddler he began to complain again. Not about how tired he was, as those complaints were very obvious, but something else. I was preparing myself to be puked on for a second day in a row when we checked his temperature and noticed how high it had climbed. It went from 99 to 103 in the hour since the last time we had checked it. He was refusing Tylenol and Pedialyte. Aaron filled the tub and we steeled ourselves into giving him a cool bath -- torture for him at the time. It worked really well though, after just a few minutes his temperature had fallen enough that the water's temperature no longer caused him such discomfort. He even played a little. He was feeling much better once out of the tub, especially after we managed to get some Tylenol into him (cold bath is just a short-term solution).

He ate a couple more Saltines and drank plenty of Pedialyte. By bed time he was so tired he didn't even want me to rock him and sing Twinkle Twinkle. He just wanted to be put in his crib so he could go to sleep. So I obliged him and he fell asleep damn near instantly.

He woke up only an hour early on Day 3 and rather than crying upon waking, I could hear him in the nursery talking to his toys. Big improvement. I went in to get him and saw that his fever had broken. He was standing at the edge of crib happy to see me. He played and laughed during his diaper change, he was almost back to normal! He did not have much of an appetite yet. I tried banana and he refused it. I waited a while and tried some dry Life cereal. No interest. He was happily drinking his Pedialyte though. We played all morning and for lunch I tried him his usual: toasties with the mosties (that is toast with peanut butter and honey or some raisins). He wanted no part of it. He again happily drank his Pedialyte though. Right before nap time I noticed a red bump on his thigh. Upon closer inspection I noticed several others, and more. On his other leg, his arms, his face.

"This looks like the beginning of Chicken Pox," I recall thinking to myself, "But that usually starts on the trunk." So I pulled his shirt up to look and sure enough he had them there too. I put him down for his nap and though he'd only stayed asleep for 30 minutes, a few of the tiny red bumps had taken on their more characteristic zit-like form. He was fussier upon waking, so we gave him a tepid baking soda bath, which he enjoyed well enough. After that he decided to eat Veggie Sticks (which are a potato chip like snack food made from veggies instead of just potatoes), but considering it had been basically three days since he had shown ANY sincere interest in food, I let him feast. He was much, much happier for it.

Grandma Eileen showed up to look after him so that Aaron and I could get a break, it was my birthday and I had basically been spending every waking moment glued to Jude's side for days at that point, so I was extremely grateful to have her so close and willing. He'd gone down to bed before we got home (after having left fairly late) but once he fell asleep, he slept great. Straight through the night and he didn't wake early.

The next morning he woke up and played again. I could hear him laughing and talking as I got his breakfast ready. I went in and saw that a couple of the more advanced blisters had popped (including the one in his nostril -- ouch!) but no new ones had risen up to take their place, which was nice. Jude drank his Pedialyte but had little interest in the rest of his breakfast. He ate a bit of cereal but not as much as he'd usually eat. Copletely boycotted his banana. He went to the table where the Veggie Sticks are and wanted those. I suggested a small amount of raisins and he agreed to that. We gave him another lukewarm baking soda bath, which he stayed in for almost a whole hour, playing joyously. After that I slathered him with Calamine lotion and got him ready for nap time. He went down with a bit of protest but managed to stay down for a little over an hour.

From there on out it was mostly business as usual, with Calamine lotion and baking soda baths. With cool heads we successfully navigated not only through Jude's very first illness ever, but Chicken Pox! We kept a close eye on him of course and avoided any hospital visits by insuring he kept hydrated. The treatment for Chicken Pox, like all viruses is by-and-large waiting it out. Antivirals are given to adults and children over the age of 12, but for babies all you can do is keep their fever under control, make them as comfortable as possible and insist they drink enough! They can dehydrate quickly, if your little one is sick (through either end) and refusing to drink, you should definitely take them to an urgent care center or the hospital. They may require IV fluids.

Many parents worry about the lack of food intake but a human can go 3 weeks without any food intake whatsoever. However, you can only last 3 days without water. Hydration is vital, especially in the sick as not only are they actively losing water through vomiting and/or diarrhea but if they're refusing the drink on top of that the problem is quickly exacerbated.

Other signs your baby may need to go to the hospital is if they shown any signs of illness and have not been vaccinated (side note: you should get them vaccinated asap). If they have yellowing of the skin or the whites of their eyes. If their fever exceeds 101 and you cannot successfully bring it down or if their fever is above 104. If they are especially lethargic. If they are puking for longer than 24 hours. If their fever lasts longer than 3 days, even if it's low grade. If they have a rash that has lasted longer than a week and doesn't seem to be improving. If they have a rash that resembles a bull's eye. If they are having difficulty breathing. If their stool is black in color. If their puke is black in color. If there is blood in the urine, stool, or vomit (even if it's just a tiny amount). If they are suddenly bruising easily. If they are crying nonstop and you cannot comfort them at all. If their cry is especially high pitched. If they have a persistent, hoarse cough. If they display a peculiar tic or have an overt seizure. If they have a fever but their hands and feet are cold; if they seem especially clumsy and/or become unresponsive for any length of time; if they do not want to be cuddled or even touched, if there is any swelling in the fontanelle area or forehead; or have pale, blotchy skin (any or all of these can be a symptoms of Meningitis, treatment is necessary within the first 24 hours).

And of course, if you aren't sure how to treat their symptoms or just need peace of mind, take them to their primary pediatrician -- most have walk-in hours available for this exact reason. Never worry you're over-reacting.

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