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How To Survive Flu Season

Taking Measures to Survive Flu Season

I find there is a certain beauty to having been a parent for many years now. For one thing, I am more centered. My priorities don't even bear a shadow of a resemblance to the things I viewed as important in my 20s. Back in the day, my mindset was about my car, my job, my new shoes. Nowadays, college tuition savings for my kids, up-to-date vaccinations and raising them to be decent loving people take precedence.

I am also more relaxed. I do not stress over having a neat-as-a-pin house. I have learned that dust is patient, dust is kind. Dust is happy to sit and wait as long as it takes. Dust is even social. If neglected for too long, it will find a corner, invite some friends and have a party.

I have perfected discount shopping. With three daughters, all bent on being Lizzie McGuire lovely, the pocketbook could go broke quickly. However, they all rate high in the fashion stakes due to my ability to seek out the clearance racks in every store we enter. (It also doesn't hurt that I am the cheapest person alive.)

I find I appreciate my own parents so much more. Those same people, whom I viewed as idiots who had escaped their villages, when I was a teen? I now see that they had to make it all up as they went along too. Despite all the shelves in Barnes & Noble dedicated to it, parenting is a work in progress – something you live and learn.

But despite all these things, I believe what I value about having been a mom for so many years is my demeanor throughout cold and flu season. Yes, that's right. I have not majored in Snot and Vomit without attaining a certain degree of calm and insight.

Watching the nightly news this flu season is enough to send a new parent into the emergency room seeking treatment for hysteria and heart palpitations. There is no denying the seriousness of a flu that has taken the lives of a dozen small children across the United States. Those are devastating statistics.

As a parent though, I have learned that you can make a substantial difference in how your own child fares. These are my common sense tips culled from years of personal experience, cases of Kleenex, gallons of Benadryl and hours spent on my hands and knees cleaning hot dogs and Kool Aid out of the shag carpet at 2 a.m.:

1. Teach them from the beginning to wash their hands on a regular basis. Instill it as a normal daily activity like brushing their teeth or putting on clean underwear. When they get into school, that will dramatically cut the number of "bugs" that get into their mouths from shared toys, tools, etc. in the classroom.

2. Carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer in your purse. Wipe it on grocery store carts where your little one may touch or be tempted to chew while riding.

3. Know the difference between viral and bacterial. As a new parent, the inclination is to want to treat everything immediately, demanding antibiotics from pediatricians. This overuse is setting children up to be at risk when they truly need medication. Viral, as in most colds and flus, means "it has to run its course." Bacterial situations, like sinus infections, are the ones that respond to antibiotics. Do not do your child a huge disservice by feeding them drugs that cannot help with their cold and may not be able to help when they really need them.

4. Hydrate! If your child does get sick, liquids are far more important than any food you can get into them. Small children are quick to become dehydrated, a situation we faced with our oldest daughter when she was 3. If a young child cannot keep any liquids down or has not wet their diaper in many hours, contact your pediatrician immediately. In the most severe cases, like our daughter, a trip to the emergency room and IV hydration are what saved her.

5. Be a responsible parent. All it takes is one sick child sent into the school to create empty classrooms within a week. If your child is sick, coughing or running a fever, KEEP THEM HOME. I see miserable children sent into school each winter, infecting classmates by the dozens, because the parents would not keep them home.

6. Finally, take your cues from their behavior. A sick child cannot fake being well. A well child cannot truly fake being sick. That does not mean a sick child needs confined to bed all day. Allow even a sick child to play to the degree they feel able. Believe me, if they feel awful you will find them down more than up.

As to a well child not being able to fake being sick? One of my kids is home today. Not because of any fever – she doesn't have one. Not because she is vomiting – she isn't. You see, today is the day her honor choir is singing at the mall and then spending the day shopping. Not to mention her best friend's slumber party is tonight. Kendall chose my bed, a glass of 7UP and a movie over all that. Take this veteran's word for it. That is a sick child.

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