Winter Is Coming: Don’t Let The Germs Win!

Back to school is upon us which means that back to bugs isn’t very far away either. For us Mums of little people who are vulnerable to complications from coughs and colds, the school year is dark and full of terrors. But rather than sitting rocking backwards and forwards in fear about the evil bugs my child may encounter, I thought it might be more useful to talk about the little things we can all do to help the health of our children and their classmates.

My youngest child has Cystic Fibrosis, so hands up, this is a partially selfish post as I attempt to protect her and give her the best chance of a hospital-admission-free first year at school. But it’s not just that. Putting my cough-and-sneeze-aphobia to one side, these simple things will help protect every single child in the classroom from unnecessary misery.

Catch it, bin it, kill it
Sneezes are the sneakiest little f***ers on the planet. They spend their days blasting cold and flu particles into the air to be breathed in by the next unsuspecting victim. The best method to put a stop to their wicked ways is to teach your child to catch the sneeze in a tissue, bin the tissue and wash their hands. I hear you, I hear you, if your child is young and busy and has the attention span of a gnat, this is a great theory but a difficult practice. In which case, the next best thing is to…

Give them the elbow
If a tissue is not an option, encourage your child to cover their coughs and sneezes so that they catch the germs rather than disperse them into the air. Best not to catch them in the hands though as hands will spread the germs around through touch – instead, teach your child to cough into their elbow. Elbows will make little or no contact with surfaces and therefore are a good alternative-to-tissue target.

If it’s green, get it seen
Green doesn’t necessarily mean a bacterial infection; the colour can come from neutrophils that your body has sent to fight a viral cold infection, for example. But it does mean that something is up, so encourage good hygiene and if the green doesn’t resolve after a few days and is accompanied by a temperature or general poor form/loss of appetite, consider a trip to the GP to see if the infection is progressing.

Clean hands save lives
If you think of all the things your hands touch in a day, it’s not hard to imagine the invisible germ load that they carry. Of course healthy people don’t feel the need to be as obsessive about hand hygiene as those who are vulnerable, BUT it’s not always obvious when someone around you is vulnerable. Good hand hygiene helps protect those with underlying illnesses, but it will also help protect healthy children from picking up every single thing doing the rounds. No matter what your health status is, proper hand hygiene before eating and after the toilet is a real sickness saver.

Don’t pull reverse sickies
Your child is sick but they really really don’t want to miss school. You’re busy at work and keeping them home would cause a whole load of hassle and stress. I get that it’s difficult, but reverse sickies are not the solution. If your child is feeling miserable, sharing is not caring! Give them a chance to fight off their illness – keep them at home, they’ll get rid of it faster and they won’t ‘gift’ it to others. Things can be passed on before symptoms develop and nobody can help that, but when symptoms are present, consider if your child should be absent.

Take antibiotics as prescribed
If your child (or you, or anyone else in the family) doesn’t need an antibiotic, don’t give one. And if they do, finish the course as instructed. Antibiotic resistant superbugs are the white walkers of our world – let’s not encourage their rise to power.

Lead by example
If your children see you practising good hygiene, they will naturally do the same thing. If you make it the norm, it becomes second nature. You’ll be protecting the health of your family. And without realising it, you’ll also be protecting the health of families like mine.

I have no dragons or swords or wildfire to make anyone pay attention to my words, but in this battle for life, I’d be thrilled if we were all on the same side.

Here’s hoping this Winter is not a long one!

Thanks for reading,
Bernie x

Image from pixabay

To the good people in our bad healthcare system

Like others, I find myself regularly ranting about our healthcare system. And with bloody good reason. It’s slow. It’s dilapidated. It’s out-dated. It’s broken. Some of the stories you hear are not only embarrassing, but downright terrifying. The system is meant to protect us, yet we often feel at our most exposed going into a medical environment – the fear of going in with one thing and leaving with an extra three for free is a very real phenomenon.

I spend a good chunk of time in and out of hospitals and clinics with my daughter who has Cystic Fibrosis, so I’ve seen samples of the best and worst bits of the system. I’ve been abhorred at water-stained ceilings, dirty bedrails and having to carry breathing equipment up and down stairs when my daughter was moving ward for the FIFTH time during a 12-day admission. Acceptable it is not.

But I’ve also experienced much kindness and thoughtfulness from staff who are doing their best to compensate for the shitty excuse of a healthcare system they find themselves working in.

So I just wanted to take a minute to acknowledge that this bad system is also filled with some really good people. People whose kindness will stick in your mind long after the trauma is over. People who can make the most horrific experiences even 1% easier to deal with. And that 1% may just be what gets you through it.

I’ve had a couple of standout moments of kindness over the last few years – they stay in my mind, yet when I discuss healthcare, they’re not what’s on the tip of my tongue. I’ve often thought about sharing them, but have never done it. So here goes – here’s a sample of my gratitude list:

  • To the CF nurse who gave me her mobile number when my daughter was first diagnosed – I will never forget that you were prepared to let me call you at any time as I struggled through the most difficult weeks of my life. I think I only called twice (I’m sure I thought about calling twice a day!), but knowing that you were there gave me such huge peace of mind. It’s a gesture I’ll never forget.
  • To the male* nurse in A&E who found us an isolation area when my daughter was only tiny and had to come in for review. You knew me and my husband were on the edge and you hid us in a room away from everyone else. I don’t remember much about that evening but I remember you bringing in cups of water and juice for us even though you were rushed off your feet (I’m pretty sure we looked like we needed something stiffer). While I can’t bring to mind exactly what you said, your kind face and voice will stick in my head forever. I still always recognise you if you’re on duty when we have to go in. I’m sure you’ve long forgotten us in the sea of panicked faces you see daily, but your face and manner are etched in my mind forever.
  • To the ward nurse who brought me a cup of tea after a terrifying day with my daughter during her first admission. Her oxygen sats kept dropping, she needed a nasal gastro feeding tube inserted, there was a failed attempt to insert a picc line and therefore blood everywhere. Quite honestly, I was just as traumatised as she was by the end of it and I was crumbling into a million pieces. You’re not allowed hot drinks on the ward but when my daughter was finally asleep, you brought me a glorious cuppa. I hadn’t left the room in days (and you knew I wouldn’t leave to go to the canteen even though you had offered to sit with my girl) and this small gesture meant everything in that moment.
  • To the out-of-hours doctor’s receptionist who let me wait in the car with my daughter when she needed a weekend review – your willingness to call me when we were next, instead of having us sit amongst the germs in the waiting room, massively eased my anxiety. Not everyone appreciates the danger zone that is the waiting room.
  • To our own clinical nurses – some weeks I speak to you more than my own family! I know it’s your ‘job’, but kindness isn’t something that can be learned and your natural empathy and willingness to answer my two thousand questions** never goes unnoticed or unappreciated.

These may read as very small things, but emotionally, the small things are often the big things. And while we need to 100% keep shouting for better healthcare, we should also make sure that we don’t channel our frustration at those who are trying their best within the current system. So my mantra is to always be kind – always say thank you to those who are thoughtful and helpful to you and your children. Yes, you’re going through shit, but they’re probably taking shit from all angles and are trying to put a brave face on it. We’re great at giving negative feedback, but let’s give the positive feedback too. (I know not everyone deserves it, but it’s worth noticing those who do.) Kindness works in both directions and who knows, your positivity may just be the 1% that gets that person through a difficult shift.


*I know I shouldn’t draw attention to gender, but if I don’t your brain will probably picture a woman in this scenario? This may be wrong but it’s totally true!

**On a good day

Image from Pixabay

At what age will I grow out of co-sleeping?

In most houses, parents can’t wait for their children to grow out of the love of co-sleeping. They long to stop clinging perilously to that couple of inches at the edge of the bed, while a little person holds the rest of it hostage. But in our house, I think it might be me that’s addicted to the midnight cuddles.

My daughter has Cystic Fibrosis, which kind of gives me an excuse, as I can monitor her breathing when she’s close to me. She sometimes wakes coughing and I’m there to comfort her and tap her back to help move whatever mucus is caught. And I know if something is coming on her before she even does – the slightest change in her breathing pattern and I’m on it. So I can make some pretty convincing points as to why it’s ok that I haven’t nipped it in the bud. But aside from reasoned arguments, truth be told, I actually just love it.

You see my daughter is 4 going on 40, with a mop of delicious curls and a cheeky smile that would send the hardest heart into melt mode. She sometimes giggles in her sleep. She usually sleeps with one eye half open (total FOMO). She sometimes wallops me in the face mid-dream. But every single time she wakes up, be it 4am or 7am, she flings her little arms around me and says ‘Mammy, I love you’. And I am complete and utter mush.

I’d probably be tougher on the issue if she was overly needy or dependent during her waking hours, as she obviously needs to flourish as her own little person. But she’s not needy in the slightest. She is beyond able to stand on her own two feet. She jumps into the middle of company. She is happy to entertain herself if her brother is not around to play with. She has a grasp of her own medication and what’s needed when. She is 100% happy and confident in her own skin. So much so that I could learn a thing or two from her!

I know that any day now she’ll turn around and say she doesn’t need me at night anymore and I’ll wince at how grown up she’s getting. So until then, I’m taking every single cuddle I can get. She looks at me like I am her world and she is most definitely mine. Why would I want to break up something so special?

My husband sometimes teases me that myself and the kids are so ‘Disney’. And while I wish I could make the rest of her life like a Disney movie, I can’t. My daughter is going to have tough challenges on the road ahead. What I can do though, is reassure her that she has 24-hour protection in the arms of her Mother. And when the cosying up together ends, I’m sure the memories of these precious moments will comfort me for the rest of my life. She’s my last baby and her cuddles are my drug. I’m high on love, comforted by curls and at peace with my parenting choice. I don’t know what age she’ll grow out of co-sleeping at. But I suspect it will be long before me.