Dear parents, cast your mind back to when you decided to have a baby. Or maybe you didn’t decide and it just happened. Either way, I bet you were all consumed with the thought of bringing a child into this world and the massive responsibility you’d have to find from somewhere, right?
I’m going to take another bet, and guess at no point did you think about all the 100 million illnesses your baby would get, and how you would deal with them. Am I right again?
I am obviously only expressing these views from personal experience, but I can’t believe any first-time parent thinks sufficiently deeply about the massive lack of immune systems these little creatures have – and if they did think about it, or have any insider knowledge, then I’d bet they’d go through with the decision with a little (a lot) more trepidation.
I remember reading an A-Z of illnesses when I was at the cot-side of my brand-new baby boy in the neonatal unit we were in. Notwithstanding the fact he was already suffering from being 7 weeks premature, I thought I’d better get clued up on what we were about to face as first-time parents. It scared the shit out of me. I had no idea how I was going to cope with it all, and I secretly hoped that my baby would sail through life sickness-free and we would be on one of those TV shows for freaky people that never get sick.
In fact, the exact opposite happened, and it feels like we’ve been hit with every single illness a person who has only been on the planet 18 months could get.
I’m going to give you my own A-Z* of baby illnesses, in the hope just one first-time parent finds it useful. I should add at this point that our son is only 18 months old, and what seems like a lot, is probably only the tip of the iceberg of what he’s going to get.
A – Anal fissure (see Fissure)
B – Bleeding, Bruises, Bottom
Bleeding because anytime you see blood coming out of your baby you pretty much freak out. It doesn’t matter if it’s an accidental cut lip, or a small nick with the nail clippers, it’s pretty much the most horrific thing you can see. In addition to this, babies seem to bleed, bleed and bleed some more. Obviously, if you feel the bleeding is uncontrollable then get off to A&E, but generally, putting pressure on the bleeding bit for a minimum of 10 minutes should calm things down.
Bruises (also see Head-banging) come with movement. The more they move, the more bruises. Simple.
Bottoms are a bloody minefield. Not only are they squiggy, cute and lush, they are also disgusting, smelly and red. Just be prepared, OK? Actually, nothing can prepare you.
C – Croup, Coughs, Colds, Constipation, Conjunctivitis, Colic
C is the biggest group of illnesses. We’ve had to deal with six Cs already. SIX! He got Croup when I was ill. Croup – that’s the nasty barky cough they get. Scared us shitless as it sounds so awful. Rushed to A&E and they gave him some steroids straight away. It calmed down after that, but it took about a week to eventually disappear.
Coughs and colds are pretty much constant. As is the constant runny nose that they can’t themselves blow, so you’re always trying to wipe it clean. They, of course, think that every time you reach for the tissue you are about to cut their nose off with a hacksaw. I feel I’m particularly para about keeping my boy bogey-free as it’s a pet hate of mine to see kids with crusty bogey-nose. I need to let this go, I know.
Constipation (also see Wind) can be a bloody nightmare. It came about in our little one when we changed his milk from my boobs to formula (I’d done 10 months and was sick of wearing those boobie bras). His body just couldn’t process it as well and as a result was bunged up like a goodun. It’s so awful to see your child suffering, and try as you might (high fibre diet, constant hydration, lots of cuddles, etc), nothing seems to work. We went to the docs a few times, and have since been on Movicol Paediatric. A powder we put in his milk (now full-fat cows). It works! It’s all flowing just fine now, and we even have the odd day of poo-megatron. That is not cool, but it still makes me happy. How weird, but it honestly does. Anything to not see him screaming once or twice a day.
Conjunctivitis is the thing that makes your eyes stick together. Nasty business. If your baby has it, again, it’s a nightmare to see. They can’t open their eyes and scream because they are scared. It’s normally cleared up with some eye-drops from your GP, or (in our case) some stronger antibiotics we put in his milk. It cleared up within a week or so. Horrid horrid horrid.
Colic – we were lucky and never plagued with this one. I can’t really comment except I do know it doesn’t last forever. Hang in there and give your very best cuddles.
D – Diarrhea, Dry skin.
We had the opposite problem to diarrhea (see constipation), but this obviously happens in many babies too. I’d say just don’t go out and keep the little mites as hydrated as you can. Dioralyte works just as well on babies as it does adults – give them a load of that.
Dry skin happens a lot with premature babies, but I’m told most babies have this too. Aqueous cream is the Daddy. Don’t bother with all the expensive stuff. Just buy tubs of the cheap stuff and chuck it on them every single day.
E – Eye problems (see conjunctivitis).
F – Fissure, Fever
This is going to be a massive over-share, but the fissure I’m referring to is that is the anal variety. A tear in the anal passage and a classic result of constipation. Fissure’s make even thinking about ‘number 2’ a horror film. And once the thought sticks with them that it’s the most painful thing in the world, they don’t want to go. And when they don’t want to go the constipation gets even worse, and the pain gets worse, and they don’t want to go… you get the idea. It becomes a horrendous psychological circle that can be very hard to break. My advice – get to the doctor ASAP. Get Movicol ASAP. We ended up seeing a specialist as it got so bad. Fortunately the fissure healed and things got a lot easier. It can be all-consuming for you as parents, and you find yourself talking about it with friends and family as if you were discussing what you had for lunch. All very embarrassing now I look back, but hey, we’re parents, it’s what we do, right?
Fevers come and go. Do what you can do get that temperature down. Cool flannel, remove bedding/clothing, and go to town on the Calpol. Anything out of the ordinary – like a temp of over 40 then get off to A&E. We’ve never found a thermometer good enough so we just feel the back of his neck, you can usually tell if he’s feverish that way.
A picture of Peggy Lee is a lot nicer than a picture of a thermometer.
G – Gastroenteritis
Yeah, this is frickin’ horrid. A non-stop vomiting, crying, floppy nightmare and another night in A&E for us. The most important thing here is making sure their nappies are wet. It doesn’t matter if they’re off their food, just make sure they are drinking. Their appetite will eventually come back (within a week), but until then you’ve just got to ride the wave. And keep washing your hands, because if you or your partner are man-down then you’re in real trouble.
H – Hernia, Hand, Foot & Mouth, Head-banging
Our little boy had a mega hernia. In fact he had 2.5 hernias. If you don’t know what one is then Google it. I just remember changing his nappy in the hospital about 4 weeks after he was born and thinking “damn, that’s not right”. Great Ormond Street hospital sorted him out and all was well, but nothing quite prepares you for seeing your child coming out of a general anesthetic. My heart was literally torn open seeing him whimpering there on the operating table. He recovered really quickly and we’ve had no problems since. Just one of those things you’ve got to deal with.
Luckily he’s never had Hand, Foot & Mouth, but we’ve had a threat of it. Turns out it was Roseola Infantum (see below). HF&M is VERY contagious and looks unsightly. It’s literally a rash around the mouth, on the hands and feet. It’s common in young children apparently so if you see any signs of it, keep them home and wait for it to disappear.
Headbanging. Does anyone else’s baby do this? Ours does. All the time. And it’s hard to think people aren’t judging you when you’re out and about… They look at your baby, covered in bruises all over his head, then look at you, then look back at the baby. Oh God. I’m told it’s a phase, but it seems to be every time he’s in pain, or trying to get our attention. And we have wooden floors, so it’s extra distressing for us to see. We try our best to ignore it (so’s not to fuel the reason for doing it), but it’s really difficult when he’s smacking his head against the floor and crying. he must get some sort of release from doing it, mustn’t he??
J – Jaundice
Most babies have this don’t they? Ours did. It’s a lack of one of the body’s vitamins (E?) and can be helped along with the aid of ultraviolet lights. Most cases aren’t very serious.
Me and my little jaundice week-old baby. He’s wrapped in a ‘billy blanket’ of ultraviolet light.
N – Nurofen, Norovirus, Nightmares
Love Nurofen for babies! Great for teething and for use with (but not at the same time) as Calpol. Best use for it is at night when teething.
Norovirus (see Gastroenteritis).
It’s hard to tell when you’re baby is having a nightmare. I’m not sure our baby has had that many, but all I’ve done is turn my cuddle power up to a Spinal Tap 11 and all is well. If he’s screaming every night he’s most probably cottoned on to the fact that when he screams he can get a good old cuddle. Don’t be fooled into this – they are clever, these babies!
P – Prematurity, Projectile vomiting, Poo.
Prematurity – kind of an obvious one for us, and it’s not technically an illness, but if I didn’t add it in, it would be weird.
Projectile vomiting is gross, but quite funny. Actually, every time it’s happened to us, we have a good laugh about it later. You can talk about the distance it travels, where the puke ends up, how bad it smells… you get the idea. You have to laugh, because otherwise you’ll just be a depressed mess of someone who cleans up sick after your toddler’s just had salmon for tea (this is the worse smell on earth, btw).
Poo – we’ve talked about this enough already, haven’t we? It happens, it stinks, especially when your baby isn’t very well. Get over it.
R – Rashes, Roseola Infantum
Rashes make me laugh. Not literally, but almost every rash we’ve taken to the GP is “nothing to worry about”. You sort of just have to accept your child will get rashes, for no apparent reason. Sometimes the reason is obvious – bubble bath, new washing powder/tables, different foods, etc, but most of the time, they just appear and then go. The last time our son had a rash it was something called Roseola Infantum – a virus where they have the rash, then a crazy temperature, then the rash goes away. It’s contagious (isn’t everything?) and lasts for about a week (doesn’t everything?). Again, it’s “nothing to worry about” it’s just one of those crazy things that they pick up.
S – Spots, Shivering
Spots (see rashes).
Shivering generally means turn the heating up or chuck another layer on. But sometimes it means they aren’t very well and need attention ASAP – and it’s not because they’re cold! Ours was shivering when he had gastroenteritis. It was his body’s way of protecting him, or something. Anyway, when you see your baby shiver like that, just get to A&E. Nothing is worth the worry.
T – Teething
Teething – ha, I could write FOREVER about teething, but it might have to wait for another bog post. It’s a bloody nightmare!!! Or at least it has been on occasion for us. The first teeth lured us into a false sense of security – they came through just like that. The rest have been awful. The nighttime crying is the worst. The molars are the worst. IT’S ALL THE WORST. General rule is Calpol in the day, Nurofen at night, and lots and lots of distraction.
V – Viral infections, Vaccinations
Viral infections – it’s a bit of a general term isn’t it? But it basically means you can’t treat what is it because it’s viral – you just manage the symptoms and ride it out. Be patient and give cuddles on tap.
The vaccinations your baby has to have are ultimately a good thing, in my opinion. However, they made our baby sick as a dog. Especially the last lot where they shove three diseases in their arm and thigh and then send them on their merry way. These babies are too tiny to take all of that! Our little one ended up in A&E (again!) with massive welts all over his body. He’d developed a crazy reaction to the injections. He looked horrendous. Again, it was “nothing to worry about” and it cleared up within about a week (there’s a theme here isn’t there).
Cute, calm baby having vaccinations. Wonder if he had welts afterwards?
W – Wind
No joke. It’s actually a serious thing, when they can’t sleep, they are all miserable and everything. I’m talking about bottom wind. We even took him to the GP about it – I was convinced it was the reason he wasn’t sleeping through. You could hear him trumping away all through the night, and the grunts were so loud! I’m still convinced he had some weird mega wind, and that the GP just didn’t know what to do. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Phew – I think I’m finished. Like I said, he’s only 18 months old, so watch this space.
A few golden rules for you:
1. It’s almost always “nothing to worry about”.
2. It will clear up in about a week.
3. Don’t be too hesitant to go to A&E. If you have any doubt, taken them in.
4. When you are covered in puke and stink of regurgitated salmon, laugh.
5. Never, ever run out of cuddles.
*I’ve not got anything for I, K, L, M, O, Q, U, X, Y and Z. Not because they don’t exist, just because we’ve not experienced them yet. Have no fear, I’m sure they’re coming.