Illness happens — especially to kids around the holidays

“You have to fix him — we’re leaving for my parent’s house on Friday!” The urgent pleas for me to fix an ill child roll in fast and furious throughout the holiday season. A sniffle that would normally be no big deal becomes urgent; a fever becomes a near medical emergency. Vomiting and diarrhea and the whole household falls like a house of cards! 

I’m kidding. Kind of.

Life is moving fast this time of year and a sick child can bring everything to a screeching halt.

Truth is, illness happens. An unofficial, unscientific truth to parenting is that each child will spend one major holiday sick. I vividly remember the Christmas I had strep and nearly everyone I know has a childhood story about a broken arm, stitches, or the like that happened on vacation. And while your pediatrician is here for you no matter the day, time is often what a child really needs to get better. Plans will get cancelled and parties missed when your little one is not feeling well. If you are lucky, it’s just one time and nothing major.

In the meantime, remember these few tips as you prepare for the holiday madness.

  1. It’s not too late to get your child (and your) flu vaccine. Flu season lasts until May, and airplane travel is a big risk factor.
  2. While cold and cough medicines are not recommended for children under the age of six, never underestimate the power of a good cool mist humidifier in helping with nighttime cough.
  3. Preserving meal and bedtime routines helps your babies and toddlers stay healthy. If an event is too late or too long, skip it or kindly let your host know that you will be leaving early with the baby.
  4. Wash hands constantly with regular soap and water. Have alcohol-free hand sanitizer and wipes on hand at all times and use before eating or to wipe down toys that your child (or someone else’s) has put in his or her mouth.
  5. Have routine medicines on hand. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen (for fever or pain), nasal saline, and any prescription medication your child takes when ill — such as medications for wheezing — should travel with you.
  6. Inquire about your pediatrician’s holiday hours. Most offices are closed only briefly (if at all) and are happy to see you.

If all else fails and you find yourself with a feverish toddler or stuffy nosed baby this season, make the best of it. Stay home when possible, rest, and enjoy a quiet day. It might not be a perfect holiday, but any day spent home with your little one is perfect regardless.

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About Dr. Sara Connolly, Board Certified Pediatrician

Sara Connolly, MD, FAAP, is a Board Certified Pediatrician who practices in Palm Beach County, Florida. She completed her residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital at the University of Miami, where she served as Chief Resident. She has a passion for child advocacy and has worked on the local, state, and national level to increase access to care for children. Her interests include nutrition, breastfeeding, and parenting skills.


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