8 Things to Keep Your Kids Comfortable in Flu Season

The better you sleep, the faster you heal.

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The shortest day of the year has graced us with its presence, which also means the sick season is here to stay. It’s time to batten down the hatches. This year, it appears we have stumbled into a real treat, as news outlets are now referring to the COVID – RSV – Flu situation that’s brewing as a “tripledemic.” This sounds very scary. Still, the reality is that while none of these viruses are pleasant, most people are going to recover without any lasting issues. In fact, most parents are going to be instructed to keep their kids at home and implement self-care routines to get through, rather than having any sort of care provided by their normal healthcare provider. But self-care for the littlest people in our lives is a challenge. They aren’t always able to tell us exactly how they feel, let alone what makes them feel better. Knowing that quality sleep is key to boosting the immune system and speeding recovery (1): how do you keep them comfortable? What are the perennial staples to keep on hand to get through that first night of congestion before you can replenish your expired medicine cabinet? As a hippie mom with a zero-tolerance policy for infectious diseases, I keep a plethora of goodies around the house for the season of grossness. I said I was a hippie, not a minimalist.

1. Incline Pillow

One of the best investments I ever made was an incline pillow. The first time I realized I needed an incline pillow was when my first child was four months old. My little one went from normal to struggling to breathe in a matter of hours. We called the on-call provider who diagnosed her with hay fever. Sure. We spent the whole night next to a steamy shower with a bulb syringe because she was struggling with post-nasal drip. The next few days of nursing were a bunch of trial and error until I started using an incline pillow! When we went to the follow-up, nobody seemed that concerned by it, but in hindsight, I’m pretty sure she had RSV. We’ve since switched providers for obvious reasons. Fast forward to three kids and I am the proud owner of two of these incline pillows. You may be thinking “you have three kids, why do you only have two pillows?” Look at those observation skills! Basic epidemiology teaches me that I will have a patient zero. Due to incubation times, I have a few days lead time before my next kid(s) fall ill, which means I typically do not have more than two little people at any given time needing an incline. This is litter box math in reverse:

Pillows needed = (number of kids) – 1

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2. Humidifier

Another solid investment: a filter-free humidifier! Do you hear the angels singing? I keep one in each bedroom and one in the main space of the house. The difference in their sleep is astounding with this one simple change. But seriously and please make sure you regularly clean it. Just because it’s filter-free doesn’t mean it won’t get absolutely disgusting. A little soap and hot water go a long way, followed by periodic (monthly) sanitation using vinegar and water. If you want to go with something stronger (like Bleach), by all means, but for all that is good and Holy, please rinse it out thoroughly before you refill it and turn it back on. If you can smell Bleach, keep rinsing.

3. Yoga Bolster

I hear it now: “what in the actual world?” Well, remember when you were pregnant with that little darling who is currently using your favorite leggings as a tissue? Remember how much more comfortable it was to sleep with an arm over a pillow? Try it next time you’re sick. Seriously. I purchased a pack of three yoga bolsters a year ago and I’m still not even a little bit sad about it. They are amazingly comfortable, and the floor cushion is great for my “behiney” when I’m expected to play dolls on the floor, or as an elbow prop for endless nursing. For the purposes of this article, the primary function of the bolsters is to keep those sick little humans on their incline pillow throughout the night, as well as to keep their chest open. They are filled with certified organic buckwheat hulls, so your little person isn’t going to be exposed to anything harmful while their immune system is under attack, and the buckwheat provides a nice weight so they hold shape in any position. The cover is removable and washable, which is always a plus in a home with kids, sick or otherwise. P.S. I’ve never used these for yoga – not even once.

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4. Boogie Wipes

I don’t love that these have additives in them (Polysorbate 20), but I do keep these on hand as they tend to be gentler on noses than the sandpaper tissues my husband keeps in stock and the saline helps break up all that crust that forms around those little nostrils. Polysorbate 20 is typically used as a food additive and according to SDS can be irritating to the skin. I try hard to avoid these types of additives, but I haven’t had any issues, even with my sensitive kids. Always check the safety data sheets or refer to the Environmental Working Group if you’re feeling the feels about any particular ingredient.

5. NoseFrida Baby Nasal Aspirator

I generally only use this right after showering to clean things out, if they are struggling before nap, or if the snot faucet just will not turn off. Of my three children, exactly zero have appreciated having their boogies sucked out of their noses, but I’ve found if I can surprise them around a corner, it’s over before they’ve realized it began. I’m stealthy that way, but you only get one chance. Don’t hesitate. These are so much better than a bulb syringe but do require periodic changing out of the filters. From a microbiology/public health/hygiene standpoint, I’d recommend changing the filters after each illness. Treat them like you’d treat your face mask – if it’s wet, or you’ve been sick, change it.

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6. Little Remedies Saline Spray and Drops

I keep one of these on hand for every little person and label them with a Sharpie. Sterile saline is helpful in thinning and flushing mucus (and making it easier for the NoseFrida sneak attack), but you already knew that. I’m just reminding you that you should stock up.

7. Ultima Replenisher Electrolyte Drink Powder

Listen – I’m not a fan of Pedialyte or anything that has food dyes in it. Kids can be sensitive to the dyes (I have one – it’s insane watching it go down), and quite honestly, I’m just not for putting anything into or onto my body that I need to go look up an SDS for. That policy alone makes my life much easier. Yes, you can get the unflavored variety, but it’s gross, and back to the SDS thing. I choose Ultima Replenisher for all my electrolyte needs. There’s no sugar, no calories, carbs, or gluten, and the colors are made from natural sources (think beet powder for pink or algae for blue). Plus, there are so many delicious flavors to choose from. I’ve found these work as tasty beverages, and you could absolutely make these into popsicles. At our last birthday party, we had a recipe for “Ocean Water,” which was pretty cool except the recipe called for ingredients that had a lot of colors and sugar in them. I used the Blue Raspberry flavor in place of the blue-green Hawaiian punch it called for and everyone loved it! My kids love them so much, I have to keep them on the top shelf of my pantry because they want to eat the powder like a Pixie stick. Not even kidding.

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8. Zarbee’s Chest Rub or Maty’s Chest Rub (for babies)

I mention this in my super hippie-dippie cold remedies post, but it’s mainstream enough I thought I could throw it in here. Why choose something other than Vicks? Well, Vicks uses petrolatum, which is a petroleum product and can be contaminated with PAHs. “Studies suggest that exposure to PAHs — including skin contact over extended periods of time — is associated with cancer.”(2) It’s just one of those things that when you know better, you do better, so I steer clear. As for whether you should choose Zarbee’s or Maty’s: I prefer Zarbee’s, but I have one kiddo who does better with Maty’s due to skin sensitivity (and one who just prefers the smell), but Zarbee’s seems more potent. Maybe it’s the Wintergreen. After a steamy shower (as hot as the kids can handle it, we don’t want to burn any booties), I wrap the kids in a nice warm towel, and the first thing I do is put either of these on their feet, followed by clean socks. The socks are important because they help them feel fresh and keep the rub in place. The feet are important because there are lots of acupressure points in the feet that control the sinuses (mostly the toes).

All these comfort care measures should definitely help your little people get better quality sleep, which will boost the immune system and speed healing (1). If you’d like to join me and wade further into the hippie waters, I have an entire post dedicated to the alternative therapies I use in my own home. Check it out here. For now, hopefully, you find this helpful enough that you and your family manage to make it through the shitstorm that is cold and flu season with minimal suffering and more sleep than you thought possible.

(1)Sleep & immunity: Can a lack of sleep make you sick? Sleep Foundation. (2022, April 22). Retrieved January 3, 2023, from Source Link

(2) The dirty Dozen: Petrolatum. David Suzuki Foundation. (2022, April 20). Retrieved January 3, 2023, from Source Link

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