When your own child is sick

People may assume, oh, you’re a doctor, so when your kid is sick, you know what to do…  Let me tell you, maybe that works for some doctor parents, but not this one! Jacob woke up Thursday night at 11pm crying, screaming, and coughing. It sounded like a night terror the way he was crying and so upset. He also was coughing this awful-sounding cough, like nothing I have ever heard before. I was by myself since Jeff was still at work. While I’m trying to comfort Jacob, in the other room, #2 starts wailing too. As hot as Jacob felt and how he was acting, I knew he was febrile and sick.

IMG_2359My mind starts racing- where are all the thermometers? How high is his temp? What if it’s crazy high? When is Jeff coming home? Do I need to take him to the ER? Where is our Tylenol and Advil? Which do I give first? OMG, how am I going to take both kids to the ER by myself. ACK‼‼ The doctor component of my mom brain wasn’t turning on and was in slow motion. I knew I had to pretend to a logical medical professional.

His ear temperature was 102+. Trying to check a rectal temperature in a hysterical child and by myself was not in the cards for us that night. Okay, so what’s next? I went with Tylenol and working on soothing Jacob’s stressed self. I knew I was going to have to encourage fluids and get him back to sleep. We went to the living room and had him on my lap and watched TV while I waited for the Tylenol to kick in. It seemed to take FOREVER, longer than I remembered! Eventually (an hour or two later), he was calmer and acting closer to his normal self. We went back to his room and I slept in the bed with him while getting kicked in the eyeball, waking up with every cough/noise and checking that he wasn’t getting hotter.

IMG_2412I had to go to work Friday and Jeff was home with the kids and nanny. Jeff was supposed to leave Friday early afternoon to go skiing for weekend. But when Jacob woke up, he was still febrile and not acting his usual self. Thanks to more medications, he was better so Dad took him on a few errands to stock up the house and he seemed okay until a few hours later, when he got drowsy around 12pm and fell asleep on the car ride home. Hm, that’s not like Jacob to go to sleep voluntarily before 2pm.

He woke up with a fever so Jeff gave him meds and then took him to the Pediatrician’s office. Of course at the Peds office, Jacob seemed to be acting better other than a fast heart rate. She asked Jeff if we wanted to test him for the flu and luckily he was negative for the flu. She said to keep treating his viral illness with Tylenol/Advil and call on Monday if he’s still having fevers.

So, while at work all day, itching to get home ASAP to see my sick baby, Jeff feels reassured that it’s a common cold and leaves Friday early evening.

The weekend was rough by myself- I was in this time-standing-still constant state of stress/worry about Jacob- is he warm, what’s he going to eat, he needs to drink more, what meds should I give next, what do I do if I have to take him to the Emergency Department, what do I if Cameron gets sick, why are the meds taking so long  to work?!? Just on and on. Luckily we have a pulse oximeter to tell me what his heart rate  and oxygen saturation are. As you can imagine, it’s pure joy getting Jacob to sit still long enough for this monitor to tell me the numbers. Also what is even more joyful is getting Jacob his medicine.


This went on all weekend- fevers were being treated by Tylenol and Advil but it was pretty disconcerting to see that as the medicine started to wear off (near hour 5-6), he would start to look sleepy/eyes half closed, ears would turn red and he would get quieter and breathe faster.  He was refusing most foods. He did have a little pizza and we would go for short walks to look for the ice cream trucks. But overall, he was only drinking juice boxes, Gatorade, coconut water, and milk.  Miraculously he was pooping once a day though in his underwear. But I didn’t care because I was happy he was pooping!

I was able to find coverage for work on Monday so I could be home. Seven forty on Monday morning, I checked his oxygen saturation because he was lethargic, hot, breathing too fast and heartbeat racing. I was getting more concerned because he was refusing anything to drinks usually he jumps at the idea of Gatorade or milk but he was not interested. I got him a lollipop that he was simply holding in his hand rather than enjoying in his mouth.  His oxygen level was 91-92% and he was breathing 50-60 breaths a minute (normal is about 20-30 for his age) and I heard some wheezing. I was contemplating getting my stethoscope to listen but I thought the important thing to do was to be a mom and lay there and comfort him. Luckily, our nanny was with Cameron so I could focus on Jacob. What do I do? Take him to the ER? The pediatrician’s office opens at 8am so should I call them first? First, I gave him some Advil and encouraged some juice. And I called the office and was able to get a sick visit appointment for at 9:50am. I thought, by then, I bet he’ll be back to his normal self and the pediatrician will think I’m nutty.

As predicted, the Tylenol kicked in by our appointment time and I was happy he was feeling better and his oxygen was 98% at the doctor’s office. She listened to his lungs for a long time and said she heard some wheezing and Right lower lobe crackles. She thought it was a pneumonia and wanted to know if I wanted a chest x-ray or a breathing treatment. Usually, I’m all for testing but in this case, would a CXR really change the treatment? And, also, did I want to trapse my kid all around town in his condition? I did want to see if a breathing treatment would help his breathing/lungs. She noticed some mild labored breathing (“retractions”) as well.   She asked if I wanted to start antibiotics even though she still suspected a viral pneumonia. She said with fevers for 5 days, it would be okay to start antibiotics. I said, YES, we’ve got to do something different.

JIMG_2606.jpgacob was a champ with the breathing treatment and at the doctor’s office. We left to go buy a muffin (he said he wanted to eat one!) but he didn’t eat any of that. We went to CVS to pick up our medications, then went to another CVS closeby to pick up the facemask to his albuterol inhaler contraption.  At the second CVS, he said he wanted some strawberry milk. While we were waiting for our meds, I sat him down in the chair and gave him a sip of strawberry milk. And then his face did NOT look good and he started dry heaving. I got a garbage can in the nick of time and he puked into it.  The super kind pharmacy manager brought over some napkins and water. He looked okay after his vomiting episode but he was beginning to feel warm so I wanted to get him home ASAP. I drove home as smooth/quickly as I could and I look back to see Jacob looking drowsier. Uh oh, please stay awake, buddy! I need to get some meds in you before you start to get sleepy. Maybe I should’ve bought some meds at CVS and given it there. Argh, why did I NOT do that?  We got home quickly and I was able to get some meds in, put a diaper on, and he was in bed again by 12:30pm.

Monday and Tuesday’s schedule continued: check temp, pulse ox/heart rate, listen to lungs, give medications, bribe with honey/lollipops/ice cream, watch movies/TV, repeat. We added Vicks VapoRub humidifier to the mix as well and that seemed to help Jacob’s cough and breathing. Now on to making sure Cameron stays healthy. As for me, I’m beginning to feel malaise/stuffiness and have been shoving meds down my gullet as well.

Now… a few questions…

Why does being a doctor not come in that handy when your oqn child is sick? What happened to the rational, logical, non-emotional, health professional? Where’d she go when I needed her most!?

I wasn’t completely comfortable by myself for the weekend. It was a high-stress situation with little/no sleep or rest. It was a challenge to focus on the other kid while taking care of the sick one.  Fortunately, Cameron was chill and played by himself. I wanted to keep the two of them somewhat separated to avoid Jacob coughing into Cameron’s face. But it was very guilt-provoking to not be able to play fully with Cameron while knowing that Jacob needed some extra TLC.   At times, like this, I wish I had family closer to town.

And that’s another Catch 22 as well. Your friends and family want to help you but you don’t want to expose them to the Contagion of our household either! So, it was a very ‘lonely’ weekend at home. We watched a lot of Jacob’s favorite shows. There were some outdoors activities to try but I wanted Jacob to rest/hydrate and also didn’t want to expose our germs and vice versa.

If this happens again, I hope to have more confidence in myself to be able to face Jacob’s sickness without fear/anxiety- at least, not too much.  So what if I have to take one of them to the hospital? I can do it. It’s going to be hard but oh well! That is life.

IMG_2777.PNGWednesday morning, the fever cycle broke and he was back to his normal self. It took a few days to get his appetite back but I had had enough with 5 days of fever! All we had to do was complete a 10-day course of antibiotics. It didn’t take long for #2 (and Mom) to get what #1 had. Sigh!

This weekend made me me wonder, how in the world do single moms handle things? and how would things be if we added another kid to the mix??? ACK!!!  I hope everyone stays healthy this season and hopefully flu season is long gone.

What kinds of things do you do when your child is sick? Do you feel overwhelmed or anxious when you’re home alone with kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts and words of wisdom to battle sickness.



Author: trustmeimadoctormom

Anesthesiologist by day, Mom to a fearless threenager and almost-toddler boys by day/night/dawn 24/7!

3 thoughts on “When your own child is sick”

  1. I’m glad you guys survived! I totally hear ya on feeling helpless when your child gets sick. But you did great…esp since you were on the frontlines with the littles! That bug has been going around and Arden had a fever for 4 days as well with mucus, runny nose and cough. Glad you guys are feeling better. Things I’ve learned from my 14 month old day care baby: Tylenol and Motrin are your friend! Fever? Start it immediately and alternate round the clock. When Arden had a 102 fever, the urgent care by our house was closing in 5 minutes and we took her to Rady’s ER. That was such a scary feeling being on the other side. You’re doing great mama! Glad you were able to weather the storm!


    1. Thanks, girl! Yes, Tylenol and Motrin were my best friends that weekend! Which to start with first? It seemed to take hours to take effect. Were you and G able to stay healthy through Arden’s bug? Day care and school have the worst germs! Jacob is sick with something about every month! Rady’s ER is a crazy place! What did Rady’s do/say?


      1. I gave Tylenol at home and when I got to Rady’s, they gave Motrin. We’ve managed to stay healthy with Arden’s cold. Yes school is a germ fest! They just rec alternating Tylenol and Motrin. Offered Arden a Foley cath to test urine for UTI which I declined. She was already not a happy camper. The last thing I wanted to do was traumatize her more.


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