Saturday, December 5, 2009

Superpowers 101: Nursing the sick and afflicted

DISCLAIMER: This post might be a little disgusting. I am writing it to share what I have learned in the past 10 years of motherhood. I promise to be as subtle and detached as possible. I ask that you rad it with the same business-like practicality with which it is intended.

The least glamorous and probably most disgusting thing mothers have to deal with is a sick child. I am saying this as a mother who has found worms in my son's jacket pocket. Not to mention other disgusting "surprises" that I will not mention. Over the years I have attempted to find the best way to handle this inevitable aspect of life. Here are a few things I have learned.

1. Keeping the mess contained.
When it comes to very young children there is really not much you can do. My kids usually get sick the first time in the worst possible place and without warning. This is the most frustrating part of the whole experience. Never mind what steps you might take to keep the carpet clean and the couch smelling fresh. If you are lucky enough to have some warning there are a few things you can do to keep the mess to a minimum.

I usually make my kids comfortable on the couch or on the floor in the living room where I can keep an eye on them. I make a layer of blankets and towels to protect these surfaces. This actually works quite well. If there is a mess to be cleaned, all you have to do is replace the top layer of towels. Usually after the first or second time, they don't have much left in their stomach and a small towel is enough. I cut an old towel into quarters to use for such occasions.

I also give them a container. This is what hospitals do so why not do it at home? I don't trust my kids to make it to the bathroom and if they are really feeling badly it is too much to ask of them. They need their rest. I hand them an old Cool-whip container and they can easily do what needs to be done and then I can swap it out for another. This is easily cleaned with hot soapy water. Sometimes I put a layer of paper towels or even a real hand towel in the bottom. Somehow that makes it easier for them. They don't actually see what is coming out of them.

I try and keep a plastic grocery bag in the car for the same reasons. Ideally, I would have a few paper towels for the bag to help keep things contained. Even without an extra protective layer, a plastic bag is better than nothing.  It can be thrown away easily.

2. Treating the symptoms.
There are several remedies for helping a sick person to feel more comfortable. A cool wash cloth on the forehead or neck can be very soothing. A light blanket, pillow, and maybe even favorite toy can bring added comfort. Somehow my kids are never as comfortable in their own bed when they are sick.

As I said, lots of rest is best. I try and let them sleep as much as possible. I have noticed that if they can sleep, their tummies can heal better than if they are awake. A sleeping child isn't bothered by hunger and thirst... or nausea.

A warm bath can be very relaxing and often goes a long way to helping them recover. It also distracts them from feeling sick if they play in the water for a little while. My kids always rest better after a bath. I also put the girls' hair in a loose braid after I wash it to keep it out of the way. A tight ponytail might give them a headache.

Another simple thing that can be very beneficial is teeth-brushing. Once they have an empty stomach, let them brush their teeth and tongue. Just getting the bad taste from their mouth helps them feel better. You will probably want to replace the tooth brush afterward or at least sterilize it with bleach.

I learned the hard way when to give fluids and what to give. After some trial and error, I have learned that it is best to wait a few hours before giving  a sick child anything to drink. Even water can upset a sick stomach if it is given too soon. Because water has no real flavor it sometimes adds to the bad taste they already have and can make things worse. Pedialite, especially in a popsicle form, is good to give the first time. It says to only give it under a doctor's supervision on the package but every time I speak with a doctor about a sick child they lecture me for not giving Pedialite before I bother them. Other fluids that seem to help are cold Sprite, regular popsicles, and watered down juice. Of course, whatever you give them should be in a small amount at first in case they can't handle it yet.

The standard advice for solid foods is to give the BRAT (banana, rice, applesauce, toast) diet for at least a day. My kids hate this. They won't eat any of it. They also don't want crackers. Scrambled eggs usually works best for my kids. Sometimes they want to go back to regular food within a few hours. I let them try it. I have one child in particular that will get sicker the longer she goes without solid food. She is more likely to be sick again if she doesn't eat than if she has a few bites of a sandwich or mac & cheese. Another solid that seems to work better for them is plain, salted corn chips like tortilla chips. They like those better than saltines and the salt helps restore electrolytes and get rid of the bad taste in the mouth.

Overall, I try and follow my child's lead. My kids sometimes throw up when they don't actually have a "stomach bug" so if they are feeling better, I let them eat and drink what they want in small portions. If they keep it down, they can have more. In the past 5 years (at least) I have not had a child down for more than a day with this kind of sickness.

3.Cleaning up.
The last thing I will mention is clean-up. Old fashioned scrubbing is probably needed for a bed or couch cushion. If you have to clean the floor, get the "big stuff" out of the way first. Then pour water over the affected area and put a folded towel over it. Stand on the towel to soak up the water. Most of the stain will be gone the first time. Repeat the process if needed. I also use Febreeze and/or disinfectant spray on everything to help with germs and smell.

I know some of you are probably past the stage of needing any of this. For those who aren't, I hope that you can use some of my experiences to make caring for sick children a little less stressful. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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