Getting stuck under the weather is always a pain in the neck, even when it’s the coziest weather to be under the blankets (sure, it might sound kind of nice to skip work for a day, but that’s conveniently forgetting all the symptoms of being sick) Having kids makes it that much more difficult. Is that really a surprise? Having kids makes most situations that much more difficult, but sickness is a very special case.
There’s the fact that it's a challenge to take care of oneself but then there’s the never-ending list of questions about passing along germs. Babies are so tiny and helpless that it inevitably feels like anything will pass along the bug to them. That’s the only logical conclusion. It’s surprising and a little confusing what’s okay for the little one’s safety so let’s all break down that list, get through it and then brew a strong cup of tea with a squeeze of lemon. Or a dash of milk. Whatever, everyone takes their tea a different way.
Let's start with the 10 things mom should avoid doing when she's sick...
Everybody knows the old Dracula sneezing method (well, everyone who has worked in food, retail or around kids. Maybe it’s not mandatory to learn in a lifestyle that someone has avoided all those jobs). Feel the sneeze coming on and hide that business in the crook of your elbow if no tissue is around to help. Some employers even insist on the cough onto the shoulder method which is less impossible than it sounds. All that said, it’s not advisable to even breathe on infants if you’re under the weather. Their immune systems are that fragile- it might be time for a surgical mask.
Nope, it’s not enough to just wash those hands every hour or some other arbitrary difference. If this feels like an unnecessary overreaction or a true pain in the neck, think about how much more difficult it’ll become if this falls through and baby gets sick. Okay, now that we’ve got that motivation - wash those hands before touching baby at all. Not even picking them up. If there’s so much as a top-of-the-head caress, there needs to be a scrub-a-dub-dub beforehand. We’re talking up to the elbows, serious business hand washing. None of this "two second and you’re done" business - that won’t cut it.
It might feel like a silly request to demand your partner be the one to fetch food from the fridge, but it’s really for everyone’s own good. Once that freezer gets messy, it’ll need a whole scrubbing so that everybody’s food isn’t infected (and who knows if it’s even safe to keep the food once it’s been at risk of infection). Nobody’s got time for cleaning the fridge when they’re also sick - someone else will have to take care of that for the time being. There'll be a big old IOU in the mail for them once the sickness subsides but desperate times.
Just don’t. For anyone who's become accustomed to the discipline of not touching their face to prevent further acne, this one shouldn’t be too difficult. Then again, introduce the foreign element of unstoppable mucus or a weird dry feeling in the mouth that just can’t be shaken off, and that discipline is challenged. Everything about being sick means the upper sinus area (so basically, the face) feels bizarre and uncomfortable. But touching it without the in-between of a napkin or hanky or something clean will only make everything worse. Keep that tissue packet at the ready and avoid your own face. Should be easy since it’s gross.
Sure, save the hot water for those baths and showers. It only makes sense but that’s just not a luxury that can be taken during a sick period, or this might become a family-wide flu. The thing is, a cold cycle in the wash won’t eliminate the germs, and those germs will come into contact other people’s clothing. And then throw bedding in the mix and it’s a seemingly quick fix that only leads to more complications. It’s more expensive and it’s frustrating and requires that extra step of separating out colors, but it’s just a temporary necessity if it’s not routine already.
This one can be the hardest for cuddle bugs and lovey kids, which is possibly the saddest element of all of this since what could make someone feel better than a big old hug for their favorite little munchkin? Ughhhhh. And then there’s the fact that your child may not even fully understand why this sudden lack of affection is enacted and take it personally- it’s even more difficult when they’re pre-verbal. Of course, there are less satisfying alternatives that can be a temporary means of affection. Hugs can be replaced with bumping elbows and kisses might need to be substituted for funny faces and little hand gestures. Sure, it’s like replacing pasta with kale but… it’s gotta do for now.
It’s a no-brainer after all of these more drastic measures but any little water-snatchers will need to be warned. There can’t be that kind of sipping from unclaimed cups when there’s a bug amuck in the house. The broccoli cheddar soup that's being slurped may look delectably cheesy and warm, but that’s no excuse to share it. That’s assuming a parent has a little one who’s demanding to try broccoli… which is even more difficult to turn down. But there’s no shortcut to getting everybody sick like sharing food. That’s just a surefire way to take the whole ship down.
There’s still a sizable chance of catching the flu, even with a shot, and that’s just not fair. That said, the flu shot is often free and incredibly convenient to get (hello, five more minutes spent at CVS than was originally planned). But considering all the contagions we come into contact with at work (and what a complete pit of germs schools are) it’s a very necessary part of preparing for Spring. It’s not as fun as seeing the New Years’ fireworks or decorating the tree, but it’s got to be part of the tradition.
If a toothbrush is being shared at all, there’s a good chance the multiple users are incredibly close. Even too close, according to most people (there was no formal survey but broach the topic in public- it won’t get a largely positive response). That or there’s someone who thinks they have a private toothbrush and they are woefully uninformed. But there needs to be some boundaries in the bathroom when a sickness is enacting its fury on the household, and that first line starts at the toothbrush. If touching the mouth is a way to transmit bacteria, just think about what’s living on that toothbrush.
The people we love and know contain bacteria that we’re not even aware of so the people we don’t even know… yeesh. We can’t even ponder what these strangers are carrying around. It's not personal, just paranoia. So if for some reason it becomes necessary to leave the house (and like, ouch- sorry about that one, bud) and stock up on supplies, definitely avoid touching as many public surfaces as you can. Or at least disinfect them as much as is possible. Now's not the time to be cavalier about touching things other people have touched- be that weirdo with gloves at the grocery store.
And here are the 10 things that are actually still okay to do when sick...
It’s honestly such a surprise that breastfeeding is okay when even breathing near an infant is such a huge no-no and yet… Mother Nature surprises. The illnesses that require a mother to stop breastfeeding are the really serious ones that are not at all being addressed in this article. Actually, as long as the medication prescribed doesn’t impact the purity of the milk (for which a doctor should be consulted), then the baby will be ingesting healthy antibodies without any risk of transmitting the illness. Plus, the baby was in contact with bacteria before the sickness even became apparent and stopping breastfeeding is a way bigger risk.
As much of a pain as keeping the little one from an illness is, very young infants still crave and require skin-to-skin contact on a deep level. No one’s entirely sure why, but the odds of transmitting germs through a blanket are just extremely low so as long as they aren’t being breathed on, cuddle up! Definitely keep those tissues at the ready still. This is a great alternative for very young infants who spend their tummy time on their parents’ stomachs- get a blanket in between the two bodies for hygiene and it should be fine. Cuddling prevails!
A hand washing session involving water and genuine soap is always ideal and this is no replacement, but not always entirely possible (think those split-second moments that involving knocking something dangerous out of a pair of tiny hands or just any other alarming moment a child can walk right into). Hand sanitizer is that convenient little gift of technology that should be on the utility belt of any sick parent. Repeated use will cause dry skin, but that’s nothing a little lotion can’t fix. Until health has been reclaimed, better dry and clean than moisturized and spreading germs everywhere.
The gigantic elephant-sized X factor in this rule is if the sick parent is the only one who touches or uses an object. Children are unpredictable little masters of mayhem so there might be an object that’s supposed to only be handled by a parent that they somehow get in their clutches. That said, if there’s absolutely no way that they could get any chance of nabbing an object… disinfecting it can wait. Maybe the object needs to live in an unreachable cabinet for the time being or behind something locked. Or just keep it attached to your person.
Now, it’s a matter of taste but there’s no time for a spicy curry (and just consider how easy it is to order in- if there was any time for that luxury, it’s absolutely now) like the present. Assuming that in the present, there’s a bad cold or flu being fought off. Or maybe Indian food is just always on the menu. Anyway, some people really can’t tolerate spicy food but if an extra dash of hot sauce is an option then take it. That stuff will flush out stuffy nostrils and boost an immune system. Plus, it tastes way better than Nyquil.
Of course, it’s a luxury to know that someone else is supervising the kids but if it’s possible to call over some help or rely on a spouse, this time can be just as valuable as time spent asleep (and that’s golden time). The hot air will loosen up mucus and relax achy muscles so a good soak can be the exact perfect treatment for a persistent sickness. And when the child is sick, a hot bath will do them as much good as the parent. It’s no replacement for a doctor’s input, but it’s a small luxury worth indulging in during a bout of illness.
It’s stressful to imagine where those disposable plates and napkins but just close those flu-addled little eyelids and dream of something else. It can be difficult to relinquish our organic cloth napkins and give in to the dark side of one-use objects but in this case, it is cleaner. Maybe the household uses rags and not paper towels (and if that’s possible with little children, congratulations because that’s impressive) but for now it may be a better idea to stick with disposables. It’ll be less work in the long run. Also, who’s really able to be a parent, also be sick and be doing dishes? Yeesh, that’s way too much.
This is another one of those tips its so easy to dismiss with an eye roll because if solo time was an option, any parent would take it. Preaching to the choir- obviously more sleep and less time running around is healthier. But this is different so maybe consider who owes favors and just how much you can call that in. It really does make all the difference in the world and can cut down an illness’s length by a matter of days. If there’s family nearby or even a friend who might just be alright with kids (whether or not they have them), it’s time to rely on that support system.
Advil's definitely the option for treating those inexplicable aches that come with the flu, but it’s also really handy as a decongestant. Who knew! It has plenty of other surprising benefits, like helping with fevers and even sinus pressure. Some people are much more sensitive to over the counter pills like Advil, but as long as it doesn’t interfere or react adversely with any prescribed medications (and that’s a question to direct to a doctor so a phone call may be in order), then it’s definitely worth including a bottle in the shopping trip to stock up on cold defense.
Whether it’s business-as-usual supplements that are already a staple in the daily regimen or loading up on extra Vitamin C in a myriad of different ways, those vitamins can really aid the body in its battle. Vitamin C is in no short supply in grocery aisles- there are powder mix-ins to normal tap water that contain astronomical amounts of the vitamin and more natural sources, like citrus fruits. Whether it’s a glass of orange juice replacing milk or coffee or a boost of zinc, taking vitamins is basically calling in the reinforcements for a body’s arsenal. Plus, there’s plenty of vitamin mixes meant specifically for cold and flu season.