My family has been hit with the flu. My son spiked a 102 temperature last Tuesday evening and life has not been the same since. I had no idea just how intense the flu could be (or how long it could last). Here's some of what I have learned this week.
1. Some flus make you sick for a long time and that is just normal!
Flus are different than colds in that there is usually almost no build up before you get sick. Colds come on slowly; flus hit you like a freight train. Symptoms last for a full four or five days and often include: chills, headache, muscle aches, dizziness, loss of appetite, tiredness, cough, sore throat, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and weakness. This can mean that you and/or your child will have a temperature over 100 for multiple days in a row (if it is over 100 for more than three days, however, with no break, it is recommended you call your doctor). After those days, a cough and weakness remain for up to two weeks afterwards. All of this is normal and does not mean anything else is wrong.
2. You are contagious for a long time.
This is where I want all moms to listen up. Unlike most colds and viruses where the common belief is that once the fever is over, you usually aren't very contagious, with flus, you are contagious until all the symptoms end. This means that you stop being contagious when you stop coughing completely. For most healthy adults this is about a week after you catch the flu. If you have a small child with the flu or if someone in your family has asthma (like I do), it means that they might have the cough longer and may be contagious up to two weeks! So, if you suspect your family had the flu, keep everyone at home or make them where masks in public for your brief forays. No one should be inflicted with the hell my family just went through!
3. Cold humidifiers are awesome.
Okay, I knew this before we caught the flu, but I loved already owning them. They do not create hot steam and so are much safer to have around small children. However, they do moisten the air and help open swollen breathing ways just as well as they hot ones do and they seem to last a lot longer than the hot air vaporizers. They are, however, a little more expensive, but I feel like the cost is totally worth it.
4. A flu can make you feel like you are going to die, but there is really nothing a doctor can do for you.
We did not go to the doctor, but I did call mine because I do have asthma and I do know that my son has the genetic possibility of having it one day. (I did not become completely symptomatic until age 14.) I nicknamed this particular flu the "Brown Plague" because it was almost as bad as the "Black Plague," but it wasn't going to kill us. However, here are a list of symptoms that mean you should take your child to the emergency room with the flu: fast breathing or trouble breathing, bluish or gray skin color, not drinking enough fluids, severe or persistent vomiting
not waking up or not interacting, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held, flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and cough. As my 2 1/2 year old, thirty odd pound son did not want to be put down during the entire five days, nursed (and slept) like a new born (up every two hours or so), and only vomited twice (on two very separate days for two separate reasons), I figured he was still healing healthily enough and we avoided the emergency room. This was probably a good thing as I'm not sure my husband or I were really healthy enough to be driving.
5. Elderberry May Kill the Flu
Obviously, I did not know this one at all or I would have had elderberries on hand. Apparently, it is well documented that elderberry kills flu viruses if you take it from the very beginning. This study says that people were "symptom free" after two days! I don't have personal experience, yet, but you can bet your knickers I'm going to be buying elderberry when I get back to the health food store!
6. The Flu Can Have "After" Effects
This is mostly for people with compromised immune systems or weak lungs. If you have asthma and you catch the flu, you can develop a rattle when you breathe like I have and you can develop plugged ears. These are after effects that can lead to serious complications, so you have to take care of them. The Neti Pot can help with both of those, but it is also recommended that you take something to thin the mucus. Mucinex is readily available, but there are more natural alternatives with less weird commercials. However, as a national drug chain is far closer to my house than the health food stores I can use in this area, I cannot tell you with any experience if any of those work. I just started using Mucinex tonight . . . we'll see how it goes.
7. The Flu Can Make You a Better Mom
Okay, so not every minute of the flu makes you a better mom, but I found because I knew that I was crabby already, I was able to be extra careful and not be impatient with my son. Because I wasn't feeling well, I didn't try to get a million things done and I was pretty grateful for what I did manage to do! I also had an easier time forgiving myself and letting myself turn the tide while I was sick because I knew that I was not at my best and so it was easier to forgive and move on. I tried to take snapshots of the good moments when I did get to snuggle a little closer with my usually very independent toddler, and I tried to push the bad moments into the fog of "The Brown Plague." You can survive the flu and be the mom you want to be during it; you just have to be forgiving of those moments when you were sick.
Oh, and it's okay to watch way too much tv when no one can move. Really. It is.
Thanks for reading,