Cold and flu season is in full force. That means stuffy noses, extra cuddles and sleepless nights. But if mom is the one who gets sick, that may mean a change in routine for everyone in the house.
Laura Jane Evors, an OB/GYN with Mary Black Health System, said moms need to have realistic expectations for getting through an illness.
“Don’t be scared to ask for help,” Evors said. “Especially if you are a single mom, you don’t always have a built-in support system.”
It is important to prioritize, putting time and precious energy into what has to get done (kids need to eat) and determining what can wait while you recover (dinner doesn’t have to be difficult to be nutritious).
“When you are sick, you won’t have a perfect house, and that’s OK,” Evors said. “It’s OK to let your kids watch TV so you can rest. Do your best to take care of you. It’s best to attack it in the beginning to try to get better faster.”
Breast-feeding mothers may feel like they are getting a double dose when illness drives them to need rest, just as baby is ready to nurse. If at all possible, Evors said it is best to continue to breast-feed, with the warning that any medications, including over-the-counter varieties, should be discussed with your doctor in advance.
Whether nursing, bottle-feeding or preparing any food, take steps to minimize the spread of the illness. Evors said wearing a mask could help while holding baby close. Some moms feel better if they pump and have someone else give a bottle.
“Always make sure you wash your hands,” Evors said. “Don’t let your kids drink after you. Wash your hands any time after you touch your face.”
Disinfectant wipes can be a family’s best friend during times of illness. Evors recommends regularly wiping down surfaces to kill germs and halt the spread of the sickness.
Rest – which can feel as common as a unicorn to a busy mom – is especially critical during times of illness. Consider it good medicine. Evors said fatigue can actually reduce the immune system.
“Try to take a nap if you can,” she said. “Rest is sometimes the best component to helping you get better.”
That may mean calling on friends and family to help, but it is an important investment in getting well faster.
Evors also promotes some winter sickness basics for avoiding illness and recovering faster, including getting a flu shot, especially if you are pregnant, and drinking plenty of water. She said avoiding too much sugar is helpful. And being the person with hand sanitizer in her purse can be a virtue during cold and flu season. Evors said washing or sanitizing hands after going in a public place and especially before eating is a first line of defense.
Watch for signs that your cold may be something more. Evors said moms who are pregnant or nursing should call their doctor for advice, and any time they have a fever greater than 100.4, are unable to keep liquids down or whenever cough or significant congestion lasts more than a week.