Because kids don't come with instruction manuals...
The one chapter in all of the parenting books that I would reread over and over is the first aid/illness chapter. That was one thing that made me absolutely terrified was the possibility of one (or two) sick babies. Unfortunately, our kids don't come with instruction manuals. Therefore, we rely on the advice of our mothers, grandmothers, aunts,sisters with kids, trusted daycare teachers, our girlfriends who are moms, the Internet (don't Google your child's symptoms...ever...), pediatricians, and nurses to tell us whether or not that fever is too high, or if that poop is the right color, or what teething remedies to trust. In my short seventeen months of parenthood, I'll be happy to share what works for me and what I have found to be useful to have on hand at all times. Again, this is what has worked for me. Different moms will say different things work for them. :)
Tools of the Trade
We have every single one in our house. Digital thermometer. Pacifier thermometer. The strip that you lay on their forehead to see the color change thermometer. However, our favorite one is a temporal artery thermometer. If my child had ran a fever during the day and I wanted to check it at night while she slept, I could easily check her temperature without waking a sleeping baby. This also works well with squirmy toddlers. Yes, it is pricey, but we are terrified of fever and the damage that it can do, so we think it is well worth the investment.
Nasal Aspirators (also known as "Snot Suckers" in this house)
The big bulbs that our girls had when they were first sent home were way too big for our girls. We prefer the smaller ones with the clear tip so that it is easy to see if everything comes out all right. (Hey. This post is NOT for the squemish.)
If possible, order these from a pharmacy or home health care store in bulk (especially if you have multiples). Make sure to get the ones that are marked off in milliliters (mLs) AND by teaspoon markings. Most medicine for infants is prescribed in mLs, and mathematical conversions are not something I want to do at 3am. Your infant concentrated Tylenol drops and Infant Advil will have special syringes for their product. However, for antibiotics, you will want to have plenty of these on hand to administer medication.
If you find that your baby is stuffy, ask whether or not a warm mist or a cool mist humidifier is needed. When our girls had their first colds, we got a warm mist humidifier. It was a Vicks humidifier for around 20 dollars. Make sure to get the kind with the detaching water container to make life easier! However, after we found out from our allergist that our daughters are allergic to mold, we were advised not to use a humidifier, so be sure to discuss this with your doctor.
Definitely have on hand your tiny fingernail clippers, tweezers, and baby band-aids.
When our girls were infants, concentrated infant Tylenol drops were available. However, there have been some changes to the formula. We have the new infant liquid suspension that we took to our doctor at their 1 year appointment and we got the chart for their exact dosage. My advice is to always bring with you the bottle of Tylenol you are using and ask at each appointment if the dosage is still accurate for their weight as well as how often to administer.
We don't have to use Infant Advil much since Tylenol does a great job with our girls; however, there were times where we would have to alternate the two to bring down a fever. Again, bring in the bottle and check the dosage with your doctor. Infant Advil will have it's own syringe for its product.
We did have to use gas drops early on with the girls. Infant Mylicon or its store brand equivalent does the trick. Again, ask your doctor for dosage according to weight.
Some moms use this. We received some from a pharmacist family friend of ours at a baby shower. Natalie never needed it. It did not work on Meredith because she was a reflux baby and there were times that I'm not sure if holy water would have worked on her heartburn.
Our daughters have an allergy history a mile long and they aren't even two yet. My girls got seasonal allergies very early in their lives and have been taking Children's Claritin. We also have Children's Benadryl on hand after Natalie's extremely scary sulfa antibiotic reaction and our possibility of food allergies existing. However, talk to your pediatrician before administering ANY allergy medication, and bring the bottles in to make sure it's the right one for your child's age.
There are lots of options out there. Some people choose Orajel or Hylands Gel or Tablets. Some people prefer teething necklaces like the amber necklaces or the necklaces that mommas wear for their little ones to teeth. Some do frozen washcloths, teething toys, etc. For us? Considering our daughters had 16 teeth by their first birthday, we did Orajel and Tylenol when needed. Especially when M cut molars...and had hand, foot, and mouth at the same time. That's how we stayed sane.
We have been very successful with heaping gobs of Desitin and A&D. Cloth diapering moms will need to find another option, such as CJsBUTTer, as zinc oxide destroys cloth diapers.
Things to Have on Hand
Saline and Saline Wipes
Because our girls have perpetual runny noses, we keep nasal saline solution and wipes everywhere. Saline spray is totally safe and recommended because it is med-free. We love Boogie Wipes in this house because they are wipes that have the saline solution built into them, so they do the work of a sturdy wet Kleenex soaked in saline.
Baby Rub is the baby version of Vicks' VapoRub. When the girls have a bit of a cough, we swear by putting some on the girls feet and putting socks on before bed.
Stuff We Have Endured
There's no getting around this one. A doctor's visit is necessary. We have all passed this around, and Natalie has it presently, actually. We get a prescription for Gentamicin Sulfate, either in drops or cream. Honestly, we're big fans of the cream. Eyedrops get cried out by babies and wiped away by toddlers. Ours tolerate the cream a little bit better, and it lasts longer when someone else in the house inevitably gets the "eye herp" as we call it.
Hand, Foot, and Mouth (also known as Gangrene Swamp Mouth Soul Killer)
My personal hell consists of hand, foot, and mouth. Poor M got this in June. It started out as a mild fever, white patches on the lips, and only wanting yogurt and milk. She did not get any blisters on her hands and feet (interestingly enough, I found that this varies child to child). I took her to the doctor because to me, white patches+fever+not hungry=strep. She tested negative for strep, and we got the Dx of HFMD. Since it's viral, there's no antibiotic. M got her first taste of popsicle, and we kept Stonyfield yogurt in business for an entire fiscal year. She slept on me and we sent Natalie to my parents so she would not get this evil, infectious crap. Then, I got the chills. Then low grade fever. Sore throat. Then, the top of my mouth got over 50+ white blisters all over, including my tongue and the back of my throat, which felt like had been scalded. Extremely embarrassing cold scores on the corners of my lip. I didn't eat for three days. Seriously, if this horrendousness affects your house, coat your house in a sheen of Lysol and wear gloves and a mask. Mike didn't get it because he has the immune system of a horse. N didn't get it because she lived with my parents that weekend.
RSV (respiratory synctyial virus) is common in babies and highly contagious. M got it full blown with wheezing and bronchitis. N got the mild version. It involves a nasal swab to get tested, which we were positive. We were prescribed liquid steroids, an antibiotic, and nebulizer breathing treatments. Everyone was back to normal within two weeks. Thank GOD for my parents and my inlaws so that we could continue to go to work.
Bronchitis/Ear Infections/Sinus Infections
After eleventy billion of these (green nose, fever, lethargic, wet cough, antibiotics out the wazoo), our pediatrician (who we adore, by the way), referred us to a pediatric allergist (who we now adore, too!). We have since switched to soy milk after finding out N's milk casein allergy causing her to overproduce mucus that backed up into her ears (this has worked well!), continued Children's Claritin, and a new nebulizer medicine for M, we have been really pleased with the progress our girls have made.
Each girl has had this once. Pedialyte on repeat and swallow your fear of being puked on or projectile pooped on 'cause it's gonna happen.
Our girls are EXTREMELY allergic to sulfa antibiotics, moderately allergic to dust and mold, and borderline possible for tree nuts (both), possible cantaloupe (M), and mildly allergic to milk casein (N). We are just a little concerned about allergic reaction in this house. My rule of thumb: Hives present and that's it? Call the doctor immediately or have the pedi on call paged if after hours and find the last thing your child ate or ingested. I would also take a picture with your phone or camera so you can show someone in the event that the condition changes. ANY indication of not being able to breathe?: call 911. This is a great link on Babycenter about allergies and anaphylactic shock. Being a momma is scary stuff for real. However, I will gladly take ANY of the little childhood illnesses and allergies that my children have endured over serious illness.
All we can do is use some good common sense, have a great relationship with your pediatrician, and trust that Momma instinct. It is some good stuff.