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Raising a Child In This Age of The Swine Flu

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In a perfect world where everyone utilizes common sense and follows all the rules, I wouldn’t have to worry as much as I do about my child becoming ill. However, I have learned and continue to learn on a daily basis that people are very careless and selfish when dealing with the health and well-being of others. I have tried to not allow myself to become too stressed about the H1N1 virus as these past few months have progressed and even in the light of my pregnancy, I still try to maintain my sanity and composure as a health care worker and educated parent. However, there are so many people out there who do not hold these same values and refuse to practice a few minor activities to ensure the well-being of themselves, their children and others. I am talking about the people who cough in public places and don’t cover their mouths, or reach to rub my belly with hands I can’t imagine have been cleaned and the kicker of course are the people who reach to touch the baby on the face or hands (with those same grimy hands). Well, I had my first experience of dealing with a very ill child about a week ago and I never want to go through that again. It started with a slight fever of about 100.7 on a Wednesday afternoon. I didn’t think much of this initially but thanks to watching “Good-Morning America” there was that slight uneasy fear of H1N1 lurking in the back of my mind. My fears were compounded as the afternoon wore on and my normally playful son just sat in my lap most of the day, even though I enjoyed the affection I knew that something was wrong. By early evening the fever had climbed to 101 and that warranted my first call to his pediatrician’s office. Now every parent knows how this call goes. The nurse or doctor gets on the phone and informs you that it is a low grade fever and it is okay to give your child Tylenol. As a parent, inside you are screaming “Did you not hear me?!!! My child is sick and there is a crazy virus out there in the world right now and I need more information from you than Tylenol and low-grade fever!” Not to mention that I had thrown out my infant’s Tylenol after hearing about the re-call on my prime informational show ‘Good Morning America’. However, I accepted the words of the nurse, calmed my nerves and gave my son a dose of ibuprofen which promptly lowered his temperature to 99. Afterwards, my husband and I settled down for what we thought would be a calm evening. We were sadly mistaken. After settling into bed to sleep (or so we thought), we were awakened at least 5 times by a crying baby with an escalating fever that topped out at 103 that night. I spent most of the night holding him with fear and sadness racing through my heart. We started the morning with another call to the pediatrician’s nurse, who seemed slightly concerned with the change in fever, and scheduled us an appointment to see the doctor that afternoon. I personally couldn’t believe she actually said afternoon and not right away! However, there was some comfort with going to the doctor’s office until I we arrived at the cesspool of sick children crawling, coughing and sneezing everywhere. I tried to sit quietly in a corner with my child in efforts to avoid worsening his symptoms or catching something else. I wouldn’t let him touch a book, chair or another child despite his cries to get down. I was protecting my child at all costs. The pediatrician ordered a barrage of tests which were negative for flu or any type of bacterial infection. However, due to my pregnancy, Nicholas’ young age and the crazy influx of people with the flu, the pediatrician informed me there was a possibility the flu test was a false negative and my child ended up on Tamiflu. When he uttered these words I waited for the horror music or some ambulance to come whisk us to the hospital, but that isn’t how it’s done. We were not considered an emergency. So I mistakenly allowed myself to believe that everything was okay. Unfortunately, that night was worse than the first with less sleep, more crying and worse fever. All of this chaos was interrupted with bouts of forced medicating (of our son) , more screaming, lots of praying and little to no sleep. To make a long story short, the Tamiflu was not the miracle drug and we still ended up in the emergency room with a baby who no longer had a fever. He did have a rash all over his torso which we in our imminent state of panic believed to be an allergic reaction to the medication. Our child had Roseola, not the flu, but another viral infection common in young children. The rash cleared up in 2 days and we didn’t know whether to feel tremendous relief or guilt at the news. We ended up with a combination of both. My husband and I both felt as if that week lasted a lifetime and I am not sure that we can go through multiple episodes of sickness and fever with our child. We are going to need a few more tools to handle the next cold or flu, but I don’t think these things are available. First, we will need a baby translator so we are aware of the exact symptoms of the baby (and “Baby Sign Language” does not work on these occasions). Second, we will need a physician on call at all times to answer any questions we may have and they must answer with concern and sincerity no matter how dumb the question. Third, we will need an IV of fluids and caffeine to battle the long nights that await us. However, in all seriousness, there is nothing more difficult than watching your child battle illness and feeling helpless in your efforts to help them. I’ve heard it gets easier and I am sure that it does but nothing can erase my memories of those difficult days when all I could give my son was a little comfort and a lot of love. I pray that was enough. And maybe I will watch a little less “Good Morning America”.

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