Woman holding child and man with child in backgroundWoman holding child and man with child in background

Navigating Sick Season: Expert Advice for Parents From an NP and Parent (just like you)

By Emily Silver

Emily Silver is a Family Nurse Practitioner, IBCLC, mom to 3 girls (8, 6, and 2 years), and the co-founder of NAPS. Through NAPS, Emily educates expecting parents, supports them in all things feeding and sleep, and facilitates new mom and working mom support groups.

As the seasons change and we anticipate the holidays, travel, and quality time with our families, there’s one concern that unites all parents: the dreaded sick season. But fear not, the nurses from NAPS are here to guide you through this challenging time with expert advice that’s both informative and to the point.

1. Handwashing: Your Ultimate Shield

It’s a top question every season: “How can I avoid getting sick?” The answer, though simple, remains unchanging: wash your hands, and do it seriously! Handwashing is your best defense against infections and your best way to keep healthy. Whether it’s welcoming guests into your home or returning from an adventure with your little ones, make handwashing a priority and the first thing you do when you walk in the door.

2. If You’re Sick, Stay Home

The pandemic has taught us to be diligent in testing for COVID, but the same rule applies beyond the virus. If you’re feeling unwell, it’s essential to stay home. Even if you test negative for COVID-19 – there’s more to consider! Whether you’re battling a fever, cough, runny nose, or gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea, staying home is crucial to protect others and prevent the spread. For the love of all that’s good, heed the call and take a break. And remember, the same goes for the little ones: children should be fever-free for 24 hours before returning to school or daycare.

3. Vaccines: Find what’s best for you and your family

Are you expecting a baby or have a newborn? Consider the COVID-19 vaccine during pregnancy (you can get it at any time in pregnancy), and encourage family and friends who will be around your baby to stay up-to-date with their flu and TDap vaccinations. Your newborn will receive vaccines at around two months of age, but ensuring those close to them are vaccinated, especially in the vulnerable early months, is a wise precaution. Additionally, during cold and flu season, consider RSV, a common cause of severe respiratory illness, with an immunization that is newly available for infants under 8 months. For a comprehensive guide on vaccines, talk to your obstetrician and pediatrician to decide what is best for you and your family.

4. Know the Fever Facts

What’s a fever? It’s a body temperature of 100.4°F or higher. During the first 12 weeks of life, if your newborn develops a fever in this range, contact your pediatrician immediately. A fever in a newborn is considered urgent and requires immediate medical attention. Learn how to take an accurate temperature using the right thermometer, which includes an axillary (in their armpit) and rectal reading for newborns. As your child grows, consider switching to a digital ear thermometer for ease. For children aged three months and older with a fever, you can usually monitor them at home, keep them hydrated, and provide age-appropriate over-the-counter medications. If the fever persists for more than 48 hours, call your pediatrician. 

5. When to Call the Pediatrician

Besides monitoring the fever, focus on your child’s overall well-being. If they struggle to breathe (not just nasal congestion, but tugging in their neck or chest), are showing signs of lethargy (aka being a wet dish rag), are having trouble drinking fluids, or are exhibiting signs of dehydration, such as not peeing (they should have four wet diapers in 24 hours when sick) or dry lips, it’s a red flag. Any concerns or red flags, no matter how minor, warrant a call to your pediatrician.

6. Master Medication Dosing

Dosing medications correctly is paramount. For newborns with a fever, reach out to your pediatrician for guidance. For babies aged three months and older, consider Tylenol as a fever remedy, and after six months, Ibuprofen becomes an option. Remember, dosing is weight-based, so consult the label and ensure you administer the correct amount according to your child’s weight.

Navigating the sick season may not be everyone’s idea of a jolly time, but with the right knowledge as a parent, you can keep your family safe and as healthy as possible. Stay vigilant, stay informed (way to read this article, you’re one step further already!), and remember, your child’s health is your top priority. Please do not ever hesitate to contact your healthcare provider if you’re unsure as you navigate through the cold and flu season. That is what we are all here for and we would rather hear from you than not, especially if you’re having that parental instinct that something is not right.

Navigating the sick season can be quite a challenge, so be sure to follow all of these tips, but most importantly, just know when to contact your pediatrician, and if all else fails, always call to ask! Stay vigilant, stay informed, and trust your parental instincts as you navigate the cold and flu season.

NAPS educates expecting parents, supports them in all things feeding and sleep, and facilitates new mom and working mom support groups. You can count on Emily for some solid medical advice merged with some real-life parenting advice, and always served judgment-free.