New Dad Diaries 30: Thea’s first illness

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Chronicling life as a new father to his beautiful firstborn child – daughter Thea – Chris Kerr’s goal is to provide all men experiencing fatherhood for the first time with some invaluable tips and tricks as they are learned – the hard way. This week, Thea catches her first virus.  

Do you what the difference is between minor surgery and major surgery?  Minor surgery is when you are having your tonsils removed. Major surgery is when it’s MY tonsils.

I’m (almost) ashamed to say, the same goes for kids catching colds. Countless times concerned parents have told me that their little one is fighting a virus and I didn’t give it a second thought. But when Thea caught one this week, it was all I could think about.

On reflection, I may have gone a bit overboard by:

  • Calling NHS 111 when she started coughing for the first time.
  • Nearly taking her to A&E when her temperature spiked.
  • Contacting every parent I knew, including some I hadn’t spoken to in years, for tips to fast-track her recovery.
  • Popping into her bedroom (several times a night) to check she was still breathing.
  • Spending an obscene amount of money on Calpol products – medicines, nasal spray, and vapour plug-ins (with enough refills to last her until she’s 18).   

However, by doing everything under the sun to try and help Thea, I learned what is helpful (and what is not).  Here are my tips:  

  1. Just be there:  If your baby is unwell, you are going to hate every minute of it. There is nothing worse than seeing your little one suffering and feeling powerless to do anything about it. If the virus was a person, you’d be telling it to go outside so you can kick its butt. Regrettably, it’s more of a waiting game. Just be there to comfort your little one when he or she needs you. It does help.   
  1. Take care of yourself too: Unfortunately, your baby coughing and being congested is going to make it harder for them to sleep. That means, you aren’t getting much either. Control the things you can – eat well, drink plenty of fluids, find time to have some fun. You are going to be more useful to everyone if you are doing OK.   
  1. Don’t be consumed by worry:  As a million people told me, viruses are common in babies and youngsters. On average, they will get six to eight per year because their immune systems aren’t fully developed yet. With every passing cold though, their immune protection will build. So in many ways, it is good that they are ill. Even if it doesn’t seem like it at 3:30am.   
  1. Remember the timeline: Colds may be common, but they don’t last long. On average, they will come and go in 7-10 days (symptoms will also ease in that timeframe). With the sleeplessness and the extra demands on you, it may feel like it will never end – but it does, and you will wonder why you were ever worried. Phew.
  1. Fight the symptoms, not the cold:  Let’s face it, us men aren’t great at doing nothing.  So, as well as making sure you are present to comfort your baby and wife, find ways to ease your little one’s suffering. Here are a few things that did that for Thea:  
  • Create an incline in the cot mattress by putting a book, cushion, blanket or a folded towel underneath it (at the head end).  t should create a 3-6 inch incline. Make sure there is no loose fabric which could become a SIDS risk.  This promotes fluid drainage away from the head and face area, helping them to sleep easier.   
  • Get a Calpol (or other) vapour plug-in to further clear and ease your child’s breathing. The refills last 8 hours. That’s the second time I have mentioned Calpol – surely a sponsorship deal is coming my way? 
  • Use paracetamol and ibuprofen products to help reduce temperature and ease discomfort. Not yours, your baby’s!  Lots of water/milk will also speed up recovery.       

For more useful advice, I recommend visiting the NHS website.   

Finally, if you are worried at all, call your GP and/or health visitor for help.  Even if your concerns end up being nothing to worry about, the medic will understand why you called. That was certainly the case for me, which is why the court only awarded a short-term restraining order. That’s a joke. But I am going to need to pop them on my Christmas card list now. 

TIP OF THE WEEK: Last week, I recommend you catch up with your fellow dad mates for a beer and steak.  Have you organised that yet?  It’s important, especially in times like these.     

Chris Kerr

Chris is a husband to Alicia and father to Thea, who is the subject of his columns on Fatherhood for Sorted.  In his spare time he works for a national law firm in an executive capacity and provides crisis leadership consultancy support for non-profits across the UK.  He attends Urban Crofters Church in Cardiff.  A keen weekend adventurer, Chris is regularly spotted in the sea or on mountains.
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