A Mom’s REAL Guide to Cold and Flu Season

Fall is coming. And then winter is coming. And with those come snotty noses, puke bugs, mysterious rashes and everything in between.

I’m not a doctor, or a nurse, so don’t confuse this with actual medical advice. I’m just that mom who has the kids who have had every disease in the book. My kids are the ones you are afraid of in the Chick-fil-A play place because of their hacking coughs and rosy cheeks. They are absolute daycare petri dishes, so you can say I’ve been around the block with just about every common illness of childhood. Here’s my possibly-helpful real guide to fall/winter illnesses.

(Please don’t try to sell me essential oils right now. Just, no.)

Strep throatFullSizeRender
Symptoms: seemingly random high fever, refusal to eat even the most coveted of toddler foods, crabbiness.

Jerk level: 6. But, the good news is this decreases rapidly once medication is administered.

Suggested remedies: popsicles and Ibuprofen for the kid, wine popsicles for parents.

Common cold
Symptoms: endless snot, mild cough, sneezing, more snot, increased whining, decreased sleep.

Jerk level: 3, but prolonged duration.

Suggested remedies: Allegedly a humidifier, but I’m convinced those were invented just to make parents feel like they’re doing SOMETHING. Probably a good time to schedule a business trip.

Symptoms: see common cold. Then crank it up to 11. Snot, coughing, wheezing. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Jerk level: 7. Pretty bad. And because it’s a virus, there’s nothing you can do beyond wait it out, really.

Suggested remedies: Every humidifier in the house. All the Ibuprofen. Strong coffee, Daniel Tiger on repeat, the Nosefrida in every room and enough wine that you forget you just literally sucked your kid’s snot out of his nose with your mouth.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease
Symptoms: high fever, drooling, refusal to eat anything but yogurt and Lord help you if it’s not the right flavor, frequent meltdowns, weird blistery rash that is supposed to be localized to the hand, feet, and mouth area but our last bout with it should have been called “legs, throat and butt disease” so take that with a grain of salt.

Jerk level: 10. Sorry. And it’s a virus so you literally just have to wait it out, sometimes for up to a week.

Suggested remedies: Ibuprofen, and the cryptically-named “magic mouthwash” that all pharmacists and pediatricians seem to know about but haven’t come up with a serious-sounding name for yet. All the Pixar movies your brain can handle, ice cream for both of you and cool baths to relieve the pain of the rash a bit. Oh, and adults can get this, too (been there twice), which is really awkward to explain to your employer.

Stomach bug
Symptoms: puke and poop. Lots.

Jerk level: 2. My confession is that my three year old is kind of nice with a low-grade illness. The stomach bug sort of makes him sleepy and cuddly. If you don’t mind vomit on your shirt and re-watching the same Paw Patrol episodes over and over again, it’s not that bad.

Suggested remedies: Nothing. Small sips of water. The minute someone in our house pukes I head to the grocery store for the supplies of Gatorade, Pedialyte (as if I could get my kids to drink that vile stuff, but the effort makes me feel better), crackers and bleach. Then, I recommend not eating, because your odds of getting it are probably 110%.

Ear infections
Symptoms: Ear infections are bizarre. I have two kids, both of which required ear tube installation around their first birthday. (Why aren’t these things coming factory sIMG_6687(1)tandard these days? Genius.) My first kid was a tugger/rubber. If his ear was infected, he wouldn’t stop touching it, even if he seemed otherwise normal. True story, my mom actually diagnosed an ear infection once based on a picture I sent her with him grabbing his ear. My second kid would just stop sleeping altogether when infected.

Jerk level: varies. We’ve dealt with the low grade, “surprise! he has an ear infection” at a well visit type of infection, and the five-alarm, blood and green discharge, burst eardrum variety.

Suggested remedies: Drugs. Make sure you ask what the antibiotic your doctor prescribes will do to your child’s poop, because we’ve had everything from “turns it beet red” to “turns it to liquid” to “nothing.” Ibuprofen. Sleep. For the parents, I recommend wearing a shirt you do not love, because explosive ear juice stains. You’re welcome for that mental image.

Symptoms: Crusty rash that is nasty yellow and oozy.

Jerk level: 1. Slightly cranky, doesn’t want area touched, otherwise fine.

Suggested remedies: Hide. It’s gross and contagious. Go straight to the pediatrician for a topical cream, then straight home. Wash your hands a lot.

Symptoms: High fever. Extreme crankiness and tiredness combined with a need to fight sleep. Child bursts out in a bumpy rash just as you are completely confused about what is going on.

Jerk level: 8.

Suggested remedies: Nothing, which is why viral illnesses are so horrible. Earplugs for mom to hide the whining.

So, go get your flu shot, stock up on tissues, popsicles, wine and Ibuprofen, because winter is coming. Godspeed!

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