Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Coping with the Stomach Flu - really don't read this one until you have to

This is a very timely post for me, today, as we have just had the stomach flu run through our family. Of course, it had to hit the day before we were going on Christmas holidays, but that is another story. As I write this, i want to remind you that I am not a doctor, just a mom with a few years of experience with kids and flus.

Please, please, if you have any serious concerns or questions about your child, take them to your family doctor, the emergency, the walk in clinic, or phone the local health line (do you have those in the US? I LOVE provincial health lines and health guide books. They have saved me so many trips to the emergency for things I could deal with at home).

That being said, here are some practical tips for making it through the nastiest parts of the stomach flu:

The thing about small children, I would say under 5 or 6, is that they don't actually have enough body memory of sickness to know when they will throw up. They don't have that adult "I'm about to be sick" instinct. They know something is wrong, they sit up in bed (or on the couch, or at the dinner table) and everything erupts from their stomach onto the closest surface. So, while you can sort of teach them to use a bowl, you need to know that their first throw up will probably be on one or more items of furniture or carpet. The first thing to do with a kid who has just thrown up is to pick them up and put them into an empty bathtub. This keeps them contained and somewhere easy to clean.

If I have other kids awake and running around, i deal with the vomit first so no one gets into it. I quickly gather supplies: paper towel, a plastic bag, a laundry basket, a few rags and a bucket of soapy water. I move through the soiled area as quickly as possible. First, pick up what you can with paper towel and put them immediately in the plastic bag to try to keep the contamination down. Then, throw anything fabric (sheets, pillows, couch covers, placemats, rugs) into the laundry basket. These can be laundered or spot cleaned later. Then wipe the area down with one rag dipped in soapy water. Then dry the area with a second rag. With this process you can move pretty quickly through a relatively large area of vomit (like when your four year old panics and gets up and starts walking across the room, stopping to throw up on various pieces of furniture in your living room). Then tie up and throw out the plastic bag, put the bucket and rag in the kitchen sink and go to help your child. If the washing machine is on the way, throw the fabric stuff in the washing machine as you go by.

Diherria, similarly, tends not to have any warning. For a somewhat older child it can be extremely frustrating, because they have finally mastered their bowels and now they are suddenly not co-operating. Try to calm them down, stem their panic, and sit them on the toilet as quickly as possible. Keep their pants around the legs until you are ready to put them in the bath, and take their clothes off in the bathtub. This means you will have one less surface to clean. If you were lucky, you may avoid having to clean up anything other than the child's clothes. If not, follow the process for vomit, above.

Now, help your child. Remove their soiled clothes and wipe them down with a warm cloth and some soapy water. If necessary wash their hair. Get them clean, and if they feel up to it, give them a nice warm bath. Be calm and explain what has happened to them if they are a young child, as they will not understand what is going on. Get them a bowl or container to put future throw up in. A light metal bowl is perfect, because it is usually the easiest to clean.

When they are done in the bath, towel them down and get them clean, easy to remove clothes. Bring the bowl and towel with you and go and get an extra blanket or quilt. Lie the child on top of the blanket or quilt to act as a buffer between them and their bed or the couch. Put the towel nearby for catching vomit or wiping them up quickly, and put the bowl right next to them. Explain again what the bowl is for. Ask them to lie still. Get them comfy, and if it is the day time, let them watch a video or look at books or colour if they are not tired enough to sleep. After a little while offer them a drink of apple juice mixed with water.

Stay nearby so you can comfort and coach them through their next bout of sickness.

You will probably repeat this process several times before they are through with throwing up. Just be patient, and try to remember that they are not doing this on purpose to inconvenience you -- they are sick and little and need your comfort and calm.

If your child is throwing up and they can not even keep down water or apple juice, get someone to go and get some pediatric electrolyte. It will help to rehydrate the child and return some nutrients to their body. It absorbs quickly, so that even if they throw most of it up, they will still absorb some liquids and nutrients from it. If the drug stores are all closed, get someone to go to 7-11 and get you some Gatorade. It is obviously not great to give to children, but it gets the job done at 4am.

With a baby, you can use the same process, although you will also have the additional complication of cleaning your own clothes, as well. If baby is old enough to sit in the tub, put him or her there while you change your own clothes. If not, take off all their soiled clothes and lay them on a towel on the floor while you quickly get changed. If you are using cloth diapers, you might want to pick up a package of disposables to keep down the laundry until the flu has run through your clan.

If you are breastfeeding, you have an extra advantage, as you don't really have to worry about baby getting dehydrated. Just feed them as much as they want. They will absorb some, and throw up the rest, but at least they will be getting some nutrients and liquid into them because breastmilk is digested so quickly. Expect them to nurse a lot, both while they are sick and for a few days afterwords.

Once your child has stopped throwing up, gradually encourage them to drink more of the electrolyte stuff, especially if they were throwing up for 8 or 10 hours straight. After they have kept this down for a few hours, they can try some apple juice again, some crackers, toast, rice or broth. Keep them on light foods for a day or so and gradually introduce other easy to digest, non-greasy foods to their diet until they are back to eating normally. Even if they want the ice cream everyone else is having after supper, leave off on giving it to them for a few days until you are sure they are feeling better. It may simply exaserbate their stomach and start things all over again. Take it easy for a few days. Even if the child seems pretty fully recovered, try to keep things pretty low key and restful until they are back to normal.

Lastly, wash your hands religiously and get your rest. The only thing worse than a sick child is a sick mother with a sick child!

Here's to hoping that you don't need this advice this winter!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Breakfast Cereal - my rant of the week

I just read a Yahoo article about breakfast cereals.  The headline being:

Parents, Don't Be Conned by Sugary Kids' Cereals

 It goes on to tell about how parents give in to the demands of marketing and their kids and buy the cereals.  But then, surprise, surprise kids aren't getting filled up or getting proper nutrition in their diet.  I know big revelation.  You can read the article hereI'm a little bit taken back about the whole thing.  You see my kids don't eat sugar cereals.  That's not to say they wouldn't, but the fact is, we don't buy them.  You don't want your kids to eat sugar for breakfast, then don't get it for them.  My kids don't pour spoonfuls of sugar on their cereal either. That option has never been presented to them.  So am I in the minority here?  I didn't think I was.  We're pretty basic in our cereal choices.  Currently on hand we have Raisin Bran, Cheerios, Honey Clusters Fibre One and Peaches and Cream Oatmeal.  Yes, my kids eat any and all of the above.  My three year old's favorite is Fibre One.  He loves it, and given the choice will pick it 9 times out of 10.  I say kids can be raised to eat well.  They just need to be given the option to do so.  Be the parent here. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dressing for Winter and Car Seat Safety

I was reflecting today how autumn seemed to slip away from me.  I can't avoid it any longer, after all Christmas is next week and we've already has a few dumps of snow in our neighbourhood.  Winter (or at least winter weather) is officially here.  It's cold.  We're into our mittens and warm hats.
Being Canadian, I take knowledge of how to dress for the weather for granted.  It gets cold, you add a layer, no big deal.  I have a friend who has recently moved here from Pakistan and the weather is quite a shock for her.  She finds the 10 degree (celcius) days of autumn cold.  She finds the -3 (plus a windchill to make it feel like -10) unbearable.  She was over the other morning for tea after we had dropped our sons off at school.  We both have daughters about the same age (1 year).  I undressed my little girl from her hat, mittens, lined fleece suit and boots and let her play.  My friend took a lot longer.  She removed a snowsuit, not one but two fleece suits, a scarf, mittens, and boots before her daughter was free to play.  "Is that too much?"  she asked.  "A little."  I said.  Her daughter may be warm, but also may be too warm and overheat.  So what's appropriate dress for cold weather like this.
Here's what my little one usually wears: a onesie with a sweater or a long sleeved shirt over top, a pair of babylegs (baby leg warmers), a pair of pants, and then either her snowsuit or a fleece bunting suit overtop.  A warm hat (that she can't get off herself) and mittens, socks and boots complete the outfit.  That's really all that is needed.   I'm a little wary of the safety of scarves (they can be tied too tight too easily, or, the end can get caught in a stroller wheel and pull to choke).  If you are out and about with a stroller you can always add a layer by adding a blanket too.
A lot of moms don't realize how big and bulky their little one becomes when dressing them for winter.  This affects the safety of strollers and car seats.  Fortunately, there is a lot more awareness around this issue.  Here's some ideas and tips to help you out.
First believe me when I say that adding snowsuits and layers affects the safety of the car seat.  You can check it out yourself.  Bring your car seat inside your home.  Dress your little one in full snow gear.  Now put them in their car seat.  Buckle them up.  Now take them out of the car seat.  Remove the snow gear.  Put your little one back in the car seat and buckle them up.  Take a look at how much excess seat belt has been pulled out to allow for the snow suit.  Quite a lot!  You may wonder what the big deal is.  Unfortunately there are instances of families being a car crash.  Due to the force of the crash the baby was fully ejected from the car seat because of the amount of room let out to allow for the snowsuit.  So what can you do?  You want your little one to be both warm and safe.
1.  Dress your baby in a lined fleece suit.  It's thin enough to be safe, but warm enough to be warm.  You can always add a blanket on top.  (I've found this to be the best with littler ones)
2.  Have your little one in their snowsuit until you get to the car.  Take the snow suit off and belt them in the car seat.  Then, put their jacket on backwards over their arms. (I do this with my older boy who is three.  He doesn't wear snow pants in the car.  He brings them if we are going somewhere that he needs them, but most of the time he leaves them at home.
3. Little babies in infant seats can use a car seat cover.  You want to get the kind that fits over top of the whole car seat as opposed to the kind that you belt in.  Nothing should be behind your little one in the car seat.  I don't know why they continue to make these things, but they aren't safe!
Winter can be a pain for lots of reasons.  The multi-layer dressing is just one of them.  Give yourself time to do it right.  Lets keep our kids warm and safe this winter!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Concerts

I first thought about writing this post last spring when I had the worst experience at a children's school concert.  I could not get over how rude some of the parents were!  This lady stood up right in front of me to get pictures of her little one on stage, when I asked if she could sit down so the rest of us could see she rolled her eyes at me and said "ppfff!"  Seriously!  I mean I know how precious it is to see your little one on stage, but the rest of us want to see our darlings and get a great picture too!
I've been on both sides of the school concert scene as a parent and as the school music teacher.  There are a few things to keep in mind when going to these events that can make the school concert experience enjoyable for all.
1.  Stay in your seats and keep the aisles clear.  Kids are ushered up and down those aisles to get on and off the stage, they need the space.  There's nothing to make a concert slow down than constantly having to move people out of the aisles.
2.  Stay seated and out of the way of others.  Yes, your little darling is precious, but so are the 20 other little darlings up there, their parents want a good view too.
3.  Plan to take the time off work for the whole concert.  All the kids in the school have worked hard for this performance.  There is nothing more distracting than parents coming in and out of the gym.  The worst I ever saw it was a packed house at one school I directed.   For the first 2 acts (the kindergarten and grade one students).  By the time the school choir was on to close the show there were only a handful of people left in the audience.  One of my students was in tears because there was no one there to hear them sing.  Most school concerts are under an hour.  I know you really want to hear your own kids, but you wouldn't go to a professional performance for the first act only would you?
4.  If you can't be there for your child, find someone who can.  I can't begin to tell you how many students have been so upset letting me know that no one will be watching them.  I always tell them that I will be there for them, but it isn't the same thing is it? 
5.  Invite the immediate family and keep it at that.  Most of us have camcorders (even built into our phones now) to show off later on.  Think about how big your school gym or auditorium is and how many kids are in the school.  Is is really fair to other parents looking for seats if you have both parents, siblings, grandparents from both sides, plus Aunt Gladys and your neighbor across the street who just adores little Johnny?  Yes, these people love your child.  Why not video instead and have a movie premier at your house the following weekend?
6.  Keep little siblings restrained.  You may think it's cute to have your 2 year old climb onto the stage, no one else does.  If you think your little one won't stay in their seat/in their stroller/on your lap here's a perfect time to cash in a babysitting favor. 
7.  Show good audience manners by not chatting once the performance in underway.  That includes in between acts when the MC's are announcing and during acts that are not your own children.
Reading this over, I know a lot of it sounds like ridiculous common sense.  This is just my insight to real parent behaviours I've seen over the years, repeatedly, really and truly.  I hope everyone enjoys their time at their school concerts this year.  The kids have worked hard and love having you there!



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