I don’t know how the son of a germaphobe gets Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. Whatever. He did.
I felt so sad that I didn’t protect my Peter enough from the world. (Blah blah, can’t protect him from everything, eventually he is going to have to grow up…) Apparently.
I also felt sad that I didn’t protect the world from my Peter. Before we knew he was sick, we took him to the library and he played with the toys, we took him to the park where he slobbered on the swing, and we invited my friend and her toddler and infant over… oops.
I decided that what I could do to stop feeling bad is to protect my two-year-old daughter, Heidi, from getting the same disease.
The worst part was that my parents were coming in town to visit us and my sister and her kids. My mom was/is battling with health issues and becoming infected with The Disease wasn’t going to be a good idea at the moment. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for flying across the country to see me. Here is my son. Infect yourselves.
So my big problems were keeping Peter comfortable and containing the germs. I turned into a Martial Artist Mommy and set out on a quest to wash as many viruses down the drain as I could. I rocked it. Nobody else got sick! (That I know of.) Here are my Expert Tips.
1. Keep the medicine coming (and keep track of it). Our doctor prescribed an alternating ibuprofen/advil schedule that kept medicine working around the clock. I had a chart where I wrote what time I gave him how much of what, so I could give him as much as possible without overdosing. From my experience with pain management after childbirth, I know that if you are pretty sure you are still going to be in pain, you should get the medicine in your system before the old medicine wears off. Now, don’t put your children on medicine for the rest of their lives to preclude the possibility of pain, but control the pain while it is there.
2. Nursing rocks. Peter stopped eating, and would only nurse. His little throat was irritated with the sores indicative of HFMD. We were down to only nursing at night before this, but he started up daytime sessions again. It really helped him. Now I am nervous to wean him, because I won’t be able to instantly make everything better when he is sick anymore.
3. Wash hands between children. This is a lot of hand washing. People will probably cry for a few more seconds before you help them (20, to be exact.)
4. Keep the kids apart as much as possible. Peter took three naps at this time. So they would wake up, eat breakfast, Peter would take his first nap and Heidi could play in the front room. Then Peter woke up and we went on a walk or something out of the house. Then lunch, then afternoon naps. I left Heidi in her room to play until dinnertime, and Peter went to bed right after dinner. It usually makes me uncomfortable to leave her in there for hours at a time because it makes me think about orphanages in Romania, but I knew that a couple days of independent play are way better than getting The Disease.
5. Limit close contact with others. You can catch HFMD from kissing, hugging, or even breathing infected air. So I was the Designated Holder. We went grocery shopping and I carried him the whole time while my other family members pushed the cart. Peter enjoyed it a lot, I enjoyed it less. Sorry.
6. Sanitize everything. This was the tough one. It’s like someone telling you that you instantly have to deep clean everything in your house. Wash blankets and stuffed animals, mop (I hadn’t mopped in a while… I suspect that Peter crawling on the floor and then sucking on his fingers or eating may have had something to do with him getting The Disease. But that’s just me), disinfect surfaces, and unfortunately, sanitize toys.
We filled the bathtub with hot soapy water, let the toys soak, then drained the water and hosed off the soap with the shower. Then we filled a big bowl with bleach solution (The formula from the CDC is 1 Tablespoon of bleach per 4 cups of water) and let a couple toys at a time sit in that bowl for a few seconds before setting them on towels to dry.
Which they didn’t do too well. (#NotInUtahAnymore)
I should have towel dried each one right then. Instead, I left them in the bathroom for a while. It was super annoying to try to use the bathroom with toys covering the floor. We also put them in plastic bags and put them in a closet to keep them clean until the illness passed. This was a good idea for most toys… not the wooden ones. We had a nice little mold garden on our wooden puzzles and train.
We also sanitized our board books. We wiped them down with disinfecting wipes, stood them up, fanned open, to dry. Then we wiped them down with a clean, wet paper towel and stood them back up to dry. Peter was too young at this time to play with paper books, so those were safe.
We took out a few toys for the kids to play with each day, and they weren’t allowed to share toys. So someone had to supervise, remember whose was whose, and be really smooth in distracting them from each others’ toys. I made dinner during their afternoon nap so I was free to do this when they were awake. At the end of the day, we sanitized the toys they played with. There weren’t that many, so I either ran them through the dishwasher or did the above method in the sink.
Another family let their daughters share toys, but divided them in half and let them play with one half in the morning and then sanitized them in the afternoon while the kids played with the other half. Pick your poison.
7. Get some fresh air.
We let them go swimming. The CDC says that getting HFMD from drinking public water that has saliva from an infected person is rare. Drinking public water that has been contaminated with feces of an infected person is worse, so we kept that bottom covered with a swim diaper and a cloth diaper cover. Other than that, though, we let him have fun in the water.
Plus, it gives Mom and Sister a little hope as well.
8. Decide on a day to declare your child Clean. Then work and work until that day, and stop worrying when it comes. We decided on a week after his first symptoms, since The Internet says HFMD lasts 7-10 days. Peter started a low-grade fever on Friday and things got ugly Sunday night. I planned on staying home from church on the next Sunday and then if all symptoms were gone, they were allowed to play with their cousins later that day.
9. This one is important: Have Grandpa Brison around.
10. Finally, be diligent. Do nothing but keep your child comfortable and your house clean. It won’t last forever, and extra effort on your part to wash the little buggers down the drain will pay off in only having a miserable mom and one miserable child, and not two.
At the end of this, you’ll have an awesome war story, and a really clean house.