By Maria Hussain, University of Toronto Mississauga student
Family Care Office UTM Outreach and Communications Coordinator
Who doesn’t love the holiday season? The lights, the music, the shopping, the cold crisp air and that hint of snow. What’s not to love? Oh let’s not forget the complimentary flu! The cold weather and the holidays are most certainly accompanied by the flu season. For parents of young children, flu and colds can quickly become the most frustrating part of winter. According to the Canadian Paediatric Society young children can get as many as 8 to 10 colds each year before they turn 2 years old. Children who go to daycare may get sick more often. The reason is that young children haven’t built up immunity (defenses) to the more than 100 different cold viruses that are around. Post COVID world is more wary of the sneezes and runny noses. This year after an almost two-year isolation children’s immunities are at an all-time low.
In Ontario there has been an unprecedented rise in the respiratory virus (RSV) cases among children. Canadian hospitals are struggling to keep up with the number of children coming to the emergency with symptoms of respiratory viruses. The Global Mail reported that “McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton said it’s running at 140-per-cent occupancy, with emergency wait times as long as 13 hours”. Long waiting at emergency rooms just adds to the overwhelming experience of tending to a sick child. More recently due to the spike in children getting sick there has been a shortage of fever and pain reducing over the counter medication such as children’s Advil and Tylenol. So, what should parents know about the flu season and how should one prepare for it?
As a parent of two young children I’ve provided some links to external resources, and some tips to help navigate through the flu season. To care for children, you don’t just need to tend to their physical symptoms, but also their emotional needs. And somehow you need to also care for the rest for your family, as well as yourself!
External resources (note: If you or your child are experiencing a medical emergency, please visit your local emergency department or call 911 immediately.):
- Health Connect Ontario (call 811 to connect with a nurse)
- Caring for Kids (the website of the Canadian Paediatric Society)
- Sick Kids Virtual Urgent Care
- Peel Public Health
- Toronto Public Health
Tips for Parents
Plan the Logistics
If your child will be at home from school having plan in place can help set your mind at ease. Plan the logistics of caring for the child while you work or study, having a list of friends and family members who can help you during weekday mornings can make things easier when you have to go for work or school while your child is sick at home.
Make room to breathe (literally)
Stuffy noses and fevers mean you may be doing twice the work you normally do as parents. From administering medication, checking the fluid intakes, and managing the symptoms it can easily get very tiring and overwhelming. When the child naps, take a moment to recharge yourself physically and mentally. Whether it is through a short meditation, a workout, a bath or a nap, make time for yourself to take a breather!
Ask for Help
When they say it takes a village, the cold and flu season is a good time to call onto the village. Don’t hesitate from leaning onto your friends, family, and support system to help you navigate through the flu blues. Weather asking for help for meal prep, or babysitting, don’t try to do everything yourself and ask for help! Help can also come from employers or your instructors in form of extension of work deadlines and altering the workload to meet your circumstances.
Remember after the winter comes spring (allergies but more on that later!) so the sun will shine, and the flu season will come to an end. In the meantime, fluids up and stay safe!