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Managing Sick Kids

There’s no way around it: having sick kids blows. And when one child gets sick, it blows even more because – inevitably – they are bound to pass the germs on to their unassuming sibling(s).

Consider it an act of love.

When my twins were infants, I did everything in my power to contain germs. I mean EVERYTHING. I made myself crazy keeping them separate from each other, sanitizing paci’s 12 times a day, spraying the entire house with Lysol (cough, cough), rubbing Baby Vicks on their feet and covering them with socks, changing their bedding daily, and sectioning off a “healthy” part of the house for my older child, and anyone else lucky enough to have avoided the evil illness.

sick children_when twins get sick
Resting on the couch with a fever

And do you know what ALWAYS happened (and still does)? They all – actually we all – got sick anyway. Always.

No matter what.

I am not kidding you – I spent a good year of my life trying to contain germs. Here’s the thing about germs: they can’t be contained in your own household. They spread. Rapidly. Violently. With force.

A creative way to spread germs: nibbling each other’s toes!

My twins, Mila & Grace, are 2.5 years old now (at time of publish), and my oldest, Harper, is 6 (at time of publish). Harper’s immune system is steadily getting stronger; she no longer gets every little virus that comes her way (and believe me, as a kindergartner, there are A LOT). But the twins? They are still building theirs… and it’s been a rough ride.

We’ve gotten to know the fish at the pedi’s office quite well…

I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand the number of weeks they stayed illness-free last winter. And while I was hoping for the best this winter – after all, they are a year older and they’ve been exposed to SO much more – I’m sad (like REALLY sad) to say, it’s not starting off so great.

Since September, we’ve had one – ONE! – totally healthy week (mind you, I live in Minneapolis where it gets cold early).

One week, people!

Oh, look! Same fish… different twin

And here’s what parents of multiples (and frankly, parents of multiple kids) everywhere will understand: when your kids get ill, life just isn’t fun. Case-in-point: at my oldest daughter’s birthday party last weekend—which I of course planned for months and we were all super excited about—one of the twins began puking 15 minutes in, and I had to rush her out of there and back home to a “safe” puking-zone free of 20 little kids. Did I see the vomit coming?? Not at all. I never would have brought her!

I felt so defeated.

Two nights ago, I was up ALL night with my twins. Not because they were so terribly sick (but sick, they are), but because every time I would go in their room (which they share out of necessity), I would inadvertently wake the other, who was trying desperately to sleep through her cough and runny nose. And this was the pattern from bedtime through the wee early morning hours.

At different points throughout the night, I had a child in our bed with us, propped up on pillows. But, stupidly, once that particular kiddo would fall asleep, I would bring her back into her room…and then wake the other. GAH!

sick children_when twins get sick
Sick sister cuddles

Not to mention that in addition to that awful and helpless feeling we have when our kids are sick (it’s really sad seeing our little ones so miserable), having sick children can also be mentally, physically and emotionally draining on us parents. It’s not just the kiddos who are stuck at home when they’re ill…mom (or dad) is too.

It’s a little like being on house arrest: trapped inside for days on end, blowing noses, taking temps, administering meds, and making chicken noodle soup on endless repeat; leaving the house only to take the kids to the doc or to run to the store for more Pedialyte (and in those small little escapes, chatting up as many people as you possibly can because you’re totally starved for human contact…).

Mom Guilt_When twins get sick
Twin mom guilt is real: who do you tend to first?

It’s okay to admit this, parents. Yes, we all want to be selfless superheroes…but, in reality…we’re human. Therefore, something I’ve learned is that for our own sanity and ability to take good care of the kids when they’re sick, it’s also imperative to take good care of ourselves (i.e. shower daily, take breaks, stay hydrated, EAT!, ask for help, etc.).

sick children_when twins get sick

So this all got me thinking: there should be a manual for parents of multiples on how to handle life when your twins/triplets/multiple children are sick.

Because it’s hard AF and no one tells you or preps you for this stuff before you have kids. I am certainly no expert, but in my short stint as a MoM, this is what I’ve learned:

1. Don’t freak out about sanitizing the house – just let everyone get sick at once, deal with the hell that will be your life – and then move on. The last thing you want is one kid sick one week, followed by the next one the next week, and then that kid infecting the first one all over again. No thank you. Just get it over with.

2. Everyone should: wash hands, drink lots of water, and rest when they can.

3. Vitamin D! Many people – especially those who live farther from the equator – are vitamin D deficient. This is especially true during the winter months when the sun simply isn’t as strong (or may not even show itself for days at a time). Therefore, adding a daily dose of Vitamin D can help boost the immune system (in kids and adults). For correct dosage, speak to your pediatrician. We use this Vitamin D at home. You can drop it in their food, water — or right on their tongue!

4. For those whose twins share a room (like mine), if at all possible, separate them for sleeping when they are sick. I finally just wised up and put a pack ‘n play in our den (which also has a recliner). Now I can move one twin down there, and/or sit with her in the recliner to help her sleep…and we don’t wake anyone else.

5. Nosefrida, Nosefrida, Nosefrida. That’s all.

6. Warm baths mixed with epsom salt and a little apple cider vinegar. I don’t think this is scientifically proven, but it makes everyone feel good…

7. Humidifiers during naps and nighttime. Ear, nose and throat surgeon Dr. Jeffrey Banyas says keeping your nose moist will help prevent sickness.

“The nose and sinuses are lined with a mucous membrane that has [within it] small hairs called cilia. These cilia beat rhythmically to sweep the sinuses clean… when the mucous membranes dry out, not only do the cilia not work as well, but any trapped infectious mucus, pus, or debris is thicker and harder for the cilia to remove,” he said. When they can’t do their job, we wind up with nasal crusting, colds and sinus infections.

8. Don’t stress about screen time or lack of sleep schedules and routines during sick periods. All that just goes out the window, and it’s okay. You can resume normally scheduled programming once the germs leave the premises. Right now, just get through it however you can.

9. Fresh air! If at all possible, open some windows. Get that clean air circulating.

10. Breaks for parents…because this sh*it is HARD.

11. Wine. See #10

That’s all I got. It’s not magic, but maybe it will help them feel better faster, and help you maintain your sanity while you’re sucking out noses and getting coughed on left and right. And if not, just know I’m right there with you. We’ve got this.

Healthy Vibes everyone. Let’s rock this cold/flu season!

~ Your Currently Sick Twins Editor, Marissa

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