It’s that time of year. You know the time where every time your child coughs you stop dead in your tracks and freeze. You ask yourself if that was a croupy, barking cough, a regular cough, or maybe your child just had a tickle in his or her throat? You convince yourself it must have been a tickle so you don’t drive yourself nuts. After all, your kids all just got over ear infections! Surely, they couldn’t be sick again! And then it happens. “The tickle” is back. Sweet baby Jesus. The cough is becoming louder and more aggressive. You now notice that your healthy child from ten minutes ago has glassy eyes and a runny nose. By nighttime, it’s a low grade fever and your poor baby is barking like a seal. It’s the spiraling sickness and you’re screwed.
In my house, the fall and winter favorites are the lingering post nasal drip cough and the almighty ear infection. The cough can and will last up to two months for my family. And sometimes, to make this roller coaster of sickness even more interesting, the cough will hit each kid at a different time. So if you do the math, we could have coughs hanging out for up to six months! Mix that in with some seasonal allergies and you’re ready to party. And like I mentioned, you can’t forget the good old ear infections. Once any of my children become congested, you can bet your bottom that its making it’s way over to Mr. Eustachian tube. We are just prone to them over here. The minute my kids say that their ears hurt or feel stuffy, I’m running to the doctor. I wasn’t always this way, but I learned the hard way unfortunately. An earache can go from 0 to 100 on the pain scale in a matter of hours and it’s usually in the middle of the night.
In one way, I’m grateful for small victories. The spiraling sickness usually stays in its lane here. Don’t get me wrong, it will hit us every week or two for a couple of months, but it’s usually the same mashup of coughs and congestion. So many of my friends have the opposite (and worse problem, in my opinion) every year. Their kids often get the stomach ailments. I’m talking vomiting. Three to seven days of nonstop puking. I can’t do puke. Especially if it’s from a big kid. I have my limits. Give me a fever, a rash, fine. But do not bring gastroenteritis into this house. No, ma’am! You are not welcome here. Every year we manage to avoid it. We stick to what we know with our runny noses. I’ll buy a million boxes of tissues and happily wipe baby boogies all day. But clean up your puke in the middle of the night? Lord, send help. Wash your sheets because you didn’t make it to the toilet in time? Please, Jesus, no. This mama doesn’t have the stomach for it! My friends and I share sickness stories over coffee like it’s nothing. Nobody gets grossed out. We’re moms and it comes with the territory. We like to throw around phrases such as, “Oh yeah, it’s going around!” My new personal favorite is, “I had to break out the nebulizer again!” Long gone are the days when you mention your child had a cold and you jump to the next topic. Nowadays it’s more of, “Well, I think it’s allergies, but it could be Covid. Or maybe it’s just a stubborn cold? But RSV is going around, so maybe it could be that?!” It’s enough to make any parent crazy!
Last month, my youngest pulled on his ear and said, “My earrrr huurts!” This was after he just wasn’t himself for the last couple of hours. I thought it was pretty impressive that he pinpointed the source of his pain and told me about it, due to only being two and a half years old. So off to urgent care we went since it was after five pm. He of course had a nasty cough that had been around for almost a month, but had already been checked for it. I assumed his ear was blocked from all the congestion. The on call doctor said his ears, chest, and throat all looked great and said he may have just had some pressure buildup. As we left the office, he was still acting fussy. I put him in his car seat and when I looked in the rear view mirror, I saw it. He was white as a ghost and started heaving. Well, let me tell you, I have never moved so fast. I knew that if I didn’t unbuckle this kid fast enough that I would be cleaning up throw up from a car seat. And since I can’t handle throw up, I would have been cleaning out a car seat while crying and trying not to throw up myself. Hell, I may have even thrown it away and bought a new one! I luckily got him out right in time and he threw up all over the parking lot. It was like Excorcist baby. I was gagging while trying to help him out and I swear anyone that would have driven by would have been horrified. After he was done, he looked at me and said, “Mommy, I burped!” It was adorable and disgusting all at the same time. For the next two days, I had the fear of God in me. Who would be the next victim? Was he going to keep throwing up? Was the spiraling sickness going to continue?! It turned out that he was fine after sleeping a little bit extra for the next two days. No one else got sick and I was thankful. Everyone was finally healthy. I told myself there was nothing more I could do for my family. The kids all take their vitamins and eat relatively healthy. They drink plenty of water and get enough sleep. They wash their sticky hands. Even so, the fall and winter spiral is bound to hit you at some point. As I’m writing this, my husband is whining about his left nostril being extra congested. I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear him and continue living in la la land where everyone is healthy for the moment. Because there is only one thing this mama can’t handle…and that my friends, is the man cold.