With an organized roadmap to offer checkups and flu vaccines this fall, I’m proud to say that our practice vaccinated more than seventy five percent of the patients and the parents who come to us. It wasn’t an easy task, and there were some families who probably thought our email reminders were annoying. To you, I say thanks for finally getting by the office for your vaccine! Skip those reminders next year by coming in early! We hate to sound like a nagging (fill in the blank) mother, husband, teenager, robo-caller, but we want to do all we can to keep the kids healthy.
It’s full on winter now, and there have been several children in Richmond who have died of influenza. Our hearts break for these families. When I turn on my television, I’m a parent just like you, and I’m inundated with reports of widespread flu in school and daycare. It’s pretty much everywhere, and researchers tell us about the virus and how well the vaccine is protecting us. This year the vaccine’s not as effective as in other seasons. So what’s a mother to do?
We’ve got to take care to take care. If it feels like you and your family are on overload, try to STOP for a minute and take stock. There’s always some way to slow life down a little bit and get to bed on time. When we get run down, that’s when it’s most likely we’ll get sick. It’s not until someone reminds me to create a new ‘normal’ that I begin to make changes.
I start with meal planning. Once a week, I write down five dinner meals and three lunch combinations and make sure all the stuff to prepare those meals is in my home. For our family, that means we eat home cooked, healthy meals most days. Chicken noodle soup and Gatorade are like good luck charms in my pantry. I never run out of these and pretend that if I have them, illness won’t strike! Of course, it’s never that easy.
What’s your family’s routine for staying healthy in the winter? Do you have realistic expectations for how often children get sick? (on average, it’s EIGHT times a year!) Do you know how long it takes to recover fully? (again, on average, it’s SIX days!) Sometimes, I think families are much more stressed when they don’t have realistic expectations for how long it takes to get over an illness so I always try to share a roadmap for what to expect when I see a patient in my office.
It’s OK to be sick if you’re working on getting better. It’s usually counter-productive to say, “I don’t have time to be sick…” even when it’s true. It’s NEVER okay to send a sick child out into the world with a dose of Tylenol or Motrin on board. They will infect other mothers’ children, and we’re all in this together. What goes around, comes around.
As a last thought: if your family’s been lucky this winter, consider sending over dinner to someone less fortunate. One simple act of kindness can heal and lift the burden of another person’s misery. If you’re struggling with lots of illness in your family, we’re here for you. In fact, we’re sending virtual chicken noodle soup over right now.
Gayle Schrier Smith, MD
(AKA Gatorade-Gayle-Souper-Smith Mom2Four)