Sick Children and COPD

When my mom lived with us for a while, she was around my son constantly.  We tried to shield her from every sickness.  We wiped down our work spaces and stayed away from people who were sick.  We extended invitations for visits with the caveat that if they were sick to please postpone.  For the most part this worked out.

I was terrified for my son

When my son was three months old, he had RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus).  This is a highly contagious respiratory virus that in most adults looks like a bad cold, but for small children and older adults that are at high risk for respiratory issues, it can be very bad.  He was very sick, and we spent the night in the hospital because he seemed to be having a hard time breathing.  I was terrified for my son.  He was so young to be in the hospital.  In the same thought, I was terrified for my mom.  I knew that if she caught this virus, it would be very bad for her.

My mom was not one to back away from her grandchildren.  We fussed at her so many times about letting them get in her face, but our fussing always seemed to fall into some void where requests that are unwanted go.  While my son was sick, she stayed away from him a little, but it was too late once he was diagnosed.  I knew it, and she knew it.

While we were in the hospital with my son, I talked to mom on the phone.  I could hear that familiar cough and wheezing over the phone, and began to beg her to go to the doctor.  She finally agreed to go.  I remember writing her doctor a note.  It simply read, “My son has RSV. Please take care of mom.”  Her doctor literally looked at the note and walked out of the room to call the hospital to get a room ready.  Mom was in the hospital for a week.

What could we have done differently?

So, what could we have done differently?  In our case, mom was able to get away from us, even in our house.  She would have been able to stay in her room and come to the kitchen and her bathroom as needed.  We could have kept everything wiped down with disinfectant wipes, but how do you keep a grandmother (or mother and/or father) away from a sick child?  I don’t have a tried and true answer.  It depends on the will power of the adult to stay away even through the crying and begging.

Tips to try

Here are a few things that you can try, but even with these, there is no guarantee that a cold or the flu would not be passed.

  1. Keep sick children away from the one with COPD.  No hugging, no kissing.  No wiping the little one’s nose, and no being nearby when the child is coughing or sneezing.
  2. Wipe everything down with antibacterial wipes.  Keep the wipes on the kitchen counter and use them as each person enters and leaves.  Wipe down the door knobs, remotes, phones, etc.  If the sick child picks it up or breathes on it, it needs to be wiped off.
  3. Extra vitamin C.  Check with your doctor before taking anything.  If extra vitamin C is not a problem, load up.
  4. If the COPD patient has an alternative place to live for a few days, a case of the flu or RSV is a good reason to pack up.  It’s not forever, but the flu and RSV can be detrimental to the health of someone with COPD.  Better to be safe, if there is an alternative.
  5. Wash every linen in a sanitary wash cycle or extra hot.  This will kill what is left behind in the sheets.
  6. In some circumstances, wearing a mask would be a good idea.  My mom wouldn’t wear masks unless she absolutely had to because it made her feel like she was suffocating.  However, I wish that she would have listened to us when my son was so sick.  Maybe it could have helped when he was around her.
  7. Wash your hands often.  If you think you’ve washed your hands a lot during the day, it’s probably still not enough.  Keep your hands clean.  Carry hand sanitizer for any time you are away from soap and water.
  8. Do not touch your face with your hands.  Don’t rub your eyes, pick your teeth or nose for that matter.  Those germs that are on your hands will find a quick path into your system through your face.

Think ahead

One extra precaution that we took was the decision not to send our children to daycare, children’s church (Sunday School) or other organized group activities.  We knew that if they were around other children, one of them would get sick.  With the progression of mom’s COPD, we knew that we would not have her very long, so we were not concerned with lack of socialization.  They socialized with my mom and dad, getting to know them much better than they would have otherwise.  Not everyone can do this, but it does help.

I wish that there was some great formula to make it possible to live life worry-free even with COPD, but there isn’t.  It is always about being careful, being smart.  The hard part is balancing the love you have for that sick child with what you can do and what you want to do.  Think ahead.  Will holding him close one night be beneficial to anyone if you end up sick, in the hospital and dealing with life-threatening situations?  Hold on, wait it out, and have better time with those kids once they are better.

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