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Monday, January 16, 2012

Instructions for My Kids: How to Treat a Sick Child

Whatever's going around, we have now each partaken of it....all but one of us who ended up playing nurse most of the day yesterday.  The big guy ended up coming to bed just as it was hitting last night, so it seemed to be a miserable evening for him.

When the nurse-child brought #7 up to put her to bed, I caught a glimpse of a very gray-faced toddler that was being carried past my bedroom.  #7 got it MUCH worse than any of us.  I was trying very hard to not have her near those of us who were so sick knowing how little ones are about knowing when and where to throw up.  We, the sickies, stayed quarantined in my bedroom, but clearly, she'd already been exposed because by mid-afternoon, she had joined our ranks.

As they walked past, I asked the nurse-child if #7 had been given any ice chips.  Nurse-child said, "I was told not to give her anything."

Okay, step #1:  The most important thing is getting the fluids going.  Dehydration can lead to further vomiting and becomes a vicious downward spiral.  It also increases achiness.

As soon as a child throws up, make sure he/she is getting fluids back in.  It's best to start with something very small--ice chips is first on the list.  Get them from an ice dispenser or put whole pieces of ice in a bag and whack it with a hammer or rolling pin.  Spoon one or two small chips into the child's mouth and let him/her chew them up.  Wait about 2 minutes between chips.

If the child won't take the ice (at first #7 wouldn't last night), give him/her something clear (uncolored) that he/she will drink--water, Sprite, etc.  We did water last night.  She was allowed three sips and we'd wait a few minutes between each drink. 

Sometimes the child will refuse anything (particularly if he/she's well on the way to dehydration)--FORCE it.  One way to do this is put it in a fun water bottle or something that looks appealing to the child, or if necessary, put it in a small medicine dropper and squirt a little bit of the clear liquid into the area between the child's cheek and gum.  If he/she spits it out, do it again.  Be persistent.  It's SUPER important, but try to do it in a way that's not going to upset the child too much.

Step #2:  You're going to want to have three other things--a bowl for the child to throw up in, towels to place around the child and a change of clothes--preferably something you don't have to pull over his/her head--snaps, zippers or buttons down the front are best.

Step #3:  Listen and watch for signs of vomiting.  There are few things as nasty as having to clean up after a child has thrown up.  You will hear the stomach gurgle or a burping sound.  You will see an increase of activity as the child tries to get comfortable.  The child may moan, and you may see increased saliva.  If you see any of these signs, get the child to the bathroom as you hold the bowl under his/her chin.  He/she WILL hate this--guaranteed, but you know more than he/she does, so be persistent.  It's important to teach a child from a very young age where to throw up.  It will pay off in the long run.  Don't get lazy and just hold the bowl under his/her chin--RUN!

Step #4:  If the child's been able to hold down the ice for a couple hours, go for another clear drink--steer clear from bright colors (red, green, purple).  From what I understand, Pedialyte is over-rated and relatively expensive.  7-Up/Sprite or Gatorade are good choices and serve pretty much the same purpose.  Chicken broth is another good option.  You can also do popsicles, but again, watch the color rule.  A nice light yellow or white-ish color are probably your best bets.  If the child throws up, you don't want to have to clean red or orange out of the carpet.

Step #5:  If a fever is over 100, give children's Tylenol, but first, try a bath--not too hot and definitely not too cold.  I, as a rule, only do Tylenol at bedtime, so the child can sleep better, unless the fever is particularly high during the day.  I am of the mind that a fever serves a purpose, and you should just kind of let it ride.  Follow your gut.  In the past, I've called doctor's offices when a fever has been at 104 or 105 and the person on the phone has been of absolutely no help at all.  They've just told me to do all that I've just said here, but that was my case.  So, I would say, if a fever gets that high, call your doctor, he/she may know more about the child's situation that might need more or different attention than you can give.

Step #6:  After 24-hours of a liquid diet--popsicles, Gatorade, or whatever. and no more vomiting, you can start to feed solid foods.  Go lightly--nothing greasy or fatty (no milk products).  They say rice, applesauce, white bread toast (with nothing on it), bananas (what they call the B.R.A.T. diet) and oatmeal are good for a recovering digestive system.  Things change over time, but this works well enough.  I know in Japan they make rice with extra water and eat that to settle a sick stomach, so you might want to give that a go too.  Continue with the clear fluids as well.

There are certain symptoms that are extremely worrisome and may mean more than just the stomach flu.  If there's a high fever, be aware of any stiffness in a child's neck or any unusual spots or rashes anywhere on his/her body.  Also, if  my child was extremely lethargic (floppy), I'd call the doctor right away.

I am just a mom, but I've been through this a few times.  These are the things that have worked for us.  Sick kids are no fun--little ones particularly.  Hope this helps.

So, back to the story about last night.  #7 came and hung out with me on my bed.  We watched Shirley Temple in Heidi, and I let her drink from the coveted pink water bottle.  She threw up two more times.  It was tricky to pull my achy body out of bed and drag her and her throw up bowl to the bathroom, but we were successful and had no more clean ups.  PHEW!  She slept well through the night--her mattress was placed on our bedroom floor with towels over it, just in case.  She woke twice asking for drinks of water, and I got up and gave them to her--the water bottle and bowl were right next to her bed.  Other than that, the night went without incident and today she's pretty close to being back to her old self.

So glad this doesn't happen very often around here.  **knocking on wood**


Grace said...

this sounds like the week we had the week of Robbie's wedding. Each and every one of us got this and it was not fun
I hope you guys get to feeling better. take care

Alyson said...

I hate throw ups more than EVERYTHING ELSE COMBINED. I dread them going through everyone. And would you know it, my #7 was throwing up yesterday too! Violent dry heaves after he'd emptied his stomach, for at least another 6 hours.

I don't take care of my kids the way my mom took care of me, I just go with my gut and my experience. I never give a kid a single thing to drink (or ice to suck on) while they're still actively throwing up. Ever. Dehydration? Bring it. Because I know from experience that water in their stomach will make them throw up again, until they're done. Once they've gone about an hour without throwing up, I start in (gently) on the liquids. And when they've gone 2-3 hours on liquids without throwing up and are perking up again, I start in (gently) on the foods. I can almost always tell when they're over it, and when it isn't a danger anymore. Mack missed two meals yesterday and has eaten four little meals so far today. He also wants to play Wii, sigh.

Julie said...

I remember you talking about that while we were waiting for kids at cross country practice last summer, Grace. Pretty miserable and terrible timing on that, huh? Glad things worked out the way they did for your family, though.

Yah, Alyson, I figure there's more than one way to skin a cat. This is just my preferred method. I go this route for a couple reasons. First, because I think feeding them fluids at least gives them something to throw up--dry heaves and yellow bile is NASTY! Also, it gives me some peace of mind to know that at least I'm doing something. There was once when I was sick and throwing up. I started the ice chips and felt so much better almost immediately. I didn't throw up any more after that first time. It was such a relief.

Tonya said...

Blah! So sorry. It sounds really miserable!

Nice tips you give...especially about the ice chips. That's one we haven't used before.

Ivy is funny before she throws up. She'll say in a panicked voice, "Mom, I need a drink!" and then BARF. Funny, huh!?! I wonder why she thinks she needs a drink?

But I've learned.

CuteT said...

I'm with you Julie! Vomiting on an empty stomach is almost the worst. I think it's tied with Orange Juice, they both burn bad.

And always having a bowl or big cup handy is crucial, otherwise when you try to hold it in, the surge will attempt to be expelled out the nostrils. Another incredibly un-fun experience!

Glad to hear the crew is on the mend.

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