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4 Dreaded Words : Cold And Flu Season

Wednesday, November 16, 2016 10:52 PM | Claire (Administrator)

Written by Brandee Foster

Cold and flu season. These four words strike fear into the heart of pretty much every parent I know. Bringing a baby home from the hospital is daunting at any time of the year, but those of us who are parents to fall and winter babies have experienced the joys of trying to keep our new, tiny little people from coming down with the many cough, runny nose and flu-like ailments that seem to plague people pretty steadily between the months of October and April, give or take a few weeks.

When you have just had a preterm baby, though, the thought of bringing that wee babe home and exposing them to the sickness and germ stew that you find in most public places during this time of year is downright terrifying. Having just spent days, weeks, even months in a place where you have to scrub up upon entry and you are taught to wash and sanitize before you touch your own child, the thought of other people's germs can be a tough one to swallow.

My son was born a few days before Thanksgiving 8 years ago. At birth, he weighed 4 pounds and 11 ounces, and was the smallest human being I had ever seen. He wasn't allowed to leave the NICU until he was able to gain enough weight to keep him over the 5 lb mark. He was so tiny, and I was so terrified. Given that he was in the NICU, it wasn't too hard to limit visitors in those first couple of weeks. Once he came home, though, everyone wanted to meet the baby and the visitors started to flood in. I was absolutely terrified that someone would bring their germs around the baby and he would get sick. He was already so small, and had already been through a fight, so the thought of him getting sick made me a bit crazy. In order to preserve my sanity, as well as those around me, I had to find what I was and wasn't comfortable with pretty quickly. Since I didn't know any other NICU parents, though, I was sort of own my own in figuring out what worked and what didn't.

  • Saying no: I had to get good pretty darn quickly at putting my little family first, even if that decision wasn't always what others wanted. I knew that in order to protect my little dude the best we could, we couldn't be shy in asking potential visitors how they were feeling *before* they came over. I also got wise and started asking if they had been around any sick kids or adults, even if they, themselves, were feeling ok. At first I felt bad asking and screening visitors like that, but I knew that if it was me being asked, I wouldn't be hurt, but would do my best to understand that the little babe had to come first. I stopped worrying so much about hurting people's feelings when it came to the baby. Any sign of a cold and it was hands off. My husband was forever scooting off the other way in public places when he saw people with that droopy, sick look come anywhere near our son and he had zero qualms about asking people to admire from afar if they were coughing or sneezy.

  • Wash: Don't be afraid or intimidated to ask people to wash their hands before the touch the baby. There is a very good reason why the NICU makes you scrub up, and that is to protect all of those vulnerable little ones. Same goes for at home. No washing? No touching!

  • Sanitize on the go: Hand sanitizer became my best friend. To this day, we have remained close companions, actually and I always carry a bottle in my purse, and use it often, especially during this time of year. I bought bottles of nicer smelling stuff when I could find it, and used good old alcohol based Purell when I couldn't. Hand washing is best, but there are times when you just can't get to a sink, and this gives me peace of mind. When my son was young, anyone who wanted to touch or hold him had to was hand sanitize. I had bottles in the diaper bags, in the car and at the house.

  • Get out: We didn't sequester ourselves in the house all the time. We had weekly doctors appointments for the first few months of his life, and we had things that needed to get done. We just went about our business as usual and hoped that everything would be okay. Isolating ourselves in the house wouldn't have been good for my mental health, and as hard as it was to remember sometimes, I had to remain healthy too. We couldn't hide away just because we were afraid of the baby getting sick. After seeing how strong he really was during his time in the NICU, we knew we had to balance practicality with concern and life had to continue on. - Keep it fresh: We did a lot of boiling of things that went into our son's mouth or near it. Soothies, nipples, teething toys, anything that might have a decent chance of coming into contact with a little mouth was routinely cleaned and boiled for that extra bit of freshness.

  • Don't be afraid: One piece of advice that our doctor gave us was not to be afraid of a bit of dust or dirt. It seemed really counterintuitive to me after the sterility of the NICU, but she explained that children who were kept in perfectly sterilized, spotless environments didn't have the same opportunity to build up their immune systems as those who didn't, so once the baby was healthy enough to be discharged, not to be too scared. This was a big one for me and one I wished I had taken to heart a bit sooner than I did.

  • Trust yourself: you are the parents and ultimately, you are the keeper and protectors of your little human, and you know what is best. Reach out and ask for help if you are unsure. Trust your gut. You know your child best. Don't worry about "bothering" the doctors office,or the people at the 24hr Nurse Line. That is what they are there for, and so what if they privately brand you a crazy parent? You can't buy peace of mind,and when you listen to your heart, you will rarely go wrong.

Honestly, it's now 8 years later and these are still a lot of the same cold season coping strategies that I use. I found that once our son started school, he began this seemingly never-ending cycle of fall and winter sickness. No matter how hard you try to avoid it, the germs are out there, but if you use some common sense and follow your gut, you should be just fine.

This post is part of the #HealthyThisWinter Campaign sponsored by AbbVie Canada. The experience and comments listed above are my own.

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