Even with a medical background, having a sick child can be scary for any mama. I’ve been blessed with a healthy child, but at some point I knew he’d get sick. Especially when he spends so much time playing with his friends at daycare, where he learns how to share toys and germs! Sure enough, it happened — for almost 72 hours, my 12-month-old son developed fevers and no longer wanted to play, eat, or drink. Naturally, this can be worrisome for a new mama.
While it can be scary for parents when their kiddos refuse to eat, most pediatricians agree that most kids can go a day or two without eating much as long as they are drinking. However, children can quickly become dehydrated with viral illnesses, and dehydration can occur even quicker when they have a fever. Thus, dehydration is often the biggest concern for pediatricians when children aren’t feeling well. Signs of dehydration include dry mucus membranes (lips and tongue are no longer shiny or wet), decreased urination (diapers are not as heavy or wet as often), lack of tears when crying, and lethargy (not feeling like their playful, energetic self).
When I took my son into the pediatrician for our first sick visit since moving to Alabama, the instructions were simple: alternate Tylenol/Motrin for his fever and keep him hydrated. The goal was one wet diaper at least every eight hours. If we were not having at least three wet diapers a day, we were instructed to head to the ER for IV (intravenous) fluids. While I’ve heard great things about Children’s of Alabama, I wanted to avoid “experiencing” it firsthand as a patient.
Keeping a one year old hydrated didn’t seem too hard to me . . . until, he persisted in refusing to take anything orally. The pediatrician recommended popsicles as a way to coax him to stay hydrated. I first attempted to make Pedialyte popsicles, but he was not a fan and refused to let them near his mouth. The next logical step was popsicles from the store. However, despite buying multiple flavors and brands of these frozen treats, my son was not interested.
We moved to Homewood in June, and our favorite family outings include a treat from Steel City Pops. Over the course of living here, we’ve tried dozens of flavors and he’s eagerly eaten every flavor except for lime (which they happily exchanged). So, after loading up on another dose of Tylenol, we headed to Steel City Pops hoping for a miracle. We chose butter pecan, the most calorie dense option on the menu, and he ate it! Next, we tried apple cinnamon since he loves cinnamon applesauce and again, he ate it. We went home and waited for a wet diaper. That evening, we knew we’d be heading either 1) to the ER for IV fluids or 2) back to Steel City Pops. To a very happy mom’s delight, he had a wet diaper and we were able to avoid the ER for another eight hours. A little while later, we loaded him in the car and headed back to eat another gourmet popsicle. Over the course of a weekend, I believe we had eight popsicles from Steel City Pops (which was enough to meet our wet diaper goal — yay!), two trips to the pediatrician’s office, and zero trips to the ER for IV fluids. “A few popsicles a day keeps the IV away!”
In summary, here are a few tips on keeping your children hydrated this cold and flu season:
- Any fluids will help; water is often the easiest choice. But, if they won’t drink water, try to offer them juice, milk, or Pedialyte for additional electrolytes. If offering juice (a popular choice for kids), feel free to dilute it with water to decrease sugar consumption. First try apple, pear, or grape juice as citrus juices can be irritating to sore throats/mouth sores. Sports drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, etc) or Pedialyte provides extra electrolytes if they’re already dehydrated. Given the long shelf life, I keep a couple bottles of Pedialyte in our hallway closet to save a trip to the store when we need it.
- Encourage your kiddos to eat warm soups, both to sooth an irritated sore throat as well as to keep them hydrated.
- As mentioned above, popsicles are a great way to sneak in fluids. If you have a mini-foodie at your house, gourmet pops from Steel City are a tasty way to sneak in fluids. But, popsicles from the grocery store get the job done.
- Fun foods such as jello, sorbets, and ice cream work in a similar fashion and are typically well received when offered to kids with a sore throat.
An ounce of prevention is a pound of cure! Above all, remember frequent hand washing and a flu shot go a long way in keeping your family and friends healthy and happy all season long!