Young children and illness

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Photo above: Possibly the only children’s remedy ever usurped by parents. Photo courtesy of

Let’s face it: most parents will do just about anything to get their baby or child to stop crying. This (mostly) selfless desire increases tenfold when a child is sick. Since my son has the world’s weakest immune system, and I, out of some biological maternal camaraderie, contract everything that he gets, we have been sick five times this year. That is almost once a month.

There is something kind of touching about being leveled by a simple cold that wouldn’t have phased the pre-mommy me. Okay, not really, but it’s a nice way of thinking about the fact that my illness-susceptibility is as embroiled with my son’s as any other part of our lives. Still, I just want this madness to stop. Forever.

Dante caught a croupy cough from another kid at his daycare—daycares, as we all know, are the usual suspects in cases of a child’s mysterious illness—and it hasn’t gotten better. The characteristic “seal bark” cough began last week, and has since escalated into awful sleep troubles, loss of appetite, and a melancholic drama that I previously thought was reserved for teenage girls.

We have, as a team, conquered the following illnesses over the past six months: a teething induced ear infection (turned into a bad cold for mommy), an ungodly stomach bug from hell (way worse for mommy), a regular cold, viral pink eye, and now this cough (not as bad for mommy, but horrible for Dante). Here is what I have learned so far about trying to combat baby/toddler illness.

  • Peace at last during a recent sickness (Photo by Virginia Petrucci)
    Peace at last during a recent sickness
    (Photo by Virginia Petrucci)

    Hot/Cold Showers. This is good for severe congestion, but doesn’t really do it for a sore throat. I have tried both hot and cold steam, and while it may be soothing at first, a young child will undoubtedly get angry at his or her being kept locked up in the bathroom without any mischief to get into (unsupervised bathroom shenanigans, on the other hand, are much relished). Be sure you have a nasal aspirator on hand to—how shall I phrase this?—suck out the snot leakage.

  • Vaporizers. Okay, so these obviously do some good, but it depends on the kind of vaporizer you get. Some are a real pain in the ass, and result in lots of spilled water while bumping around in the dark when they need to be refilled in the middle of the night. Many come with awesome light shows, which are great fun for a baby but are also really distracting when you are trying to get them back to sleep. And, if you happen to have a future engineer on your hands, as I do, then the temptation to obsessively take the whole thing apart at one A.M. can be a problem.
  • “Throat Coat” Lollipops. What an amazing idea, right? Something fun and flavorful that doesn’t make you feel like you’re taking medicine. Well, that’s because you aren’t taking any medicine. These lollipops would be great trickery if they did anything at all aside from end up on the bottom of my socks, or stuck to the back of my kid’s head. No.
  • Cough Syrup. Honey is notorious for giving babies and toddlers constipation and general upset tummy problems. Unless you already know that your child can handle honey, it is best to avoid it as an ingredient in cough syrup. During an irresponsibly expensive trip to Whole Foods, I purchased a homeopathic cough syrup remedy without honey that I hoped would help Dante’s throat and cough. It’s done absolutely nothing. I suppose the weird graphic of a brother and sister in nineteen-nineties fashion should’ve been a sign. 
  • Actual Medicine. Medicine is good. I’m a fan. Best when obtained through a doctor.
  • Homeopathic Hullaballoo. Here’s the thing. I’m a homeopathic kind of a mom. I prefer to research the best treatment options for my son and his Contracted Nonsense of the Month before jumping on the antibiotic/steroid/preventative painkiller bandwagon. That doesn’t mean I’m opposed to those things, but I don’t like the idea of cowering at the first sign of sickness, and just throwing some medicine at the situation. I think that being open minded to either “path” of treatment is best, so long as your child is taken care of.
  • And that is every mom’s personal choice. Still, if you are inclined toward the “alternative” side of treatment, I have found that it is best to keep it to yourself unless you want to deal with a lot of pouting — from adults, not children. Even in Los Angeles, there is a bit of a “coming out” performance as a homeopathic practitioner.

The frequency of my son’s sickness has really taken on a mandatory nature. I am hoping that these early bouts of infections and viruses will lead to a healthier boy later down the road. The best I can do, when all else fails, is to cuddle with and sing to him. While that solves nothing, comfort really is the best medicine.