Taking care of one sick kid is hard. Taking care of two sick kids is exhausting. Throw in a sick Hubbs — just for kicks — and what do you get? Nuclear meltdown. CDC quarantine. Hazmat suits and instant hand sanitizer. And me. The last one standing.

For now.

First Sean got sick. Just your standard, run-of-the-mill cold. Paired with the typical “I don’t feel good so I’m going to freak out about EVERYTHING” toddler behavior. (Yes, he freaks out about EVERY. LITTLE. THING. Nose running? Freak Out! No more juice in your cup? Freak Out! Sister sit next to you and take your dinosaur? Nuclear Explosion!)

Then Allie got sick. At first, I didn’t even realize she was sick. She had a very slight runny nose (she’s teething, so nothing alarming there) and was cuddly and quiet Monday morning when I dropped her off at day care. Later that day, I got a call from our provider: Allie had no energy. She was very quiet. And she had a “barking” cough. And our day-care provider? She was worried.

I hung up, did a reality check with Hubbs, made an appointment with the doctor for both kids, then let work know.

I was honestly worried that I was being paranoid. That she was really fine and that I’d feel silly for taking her in for a normal cold. Then I saw her: Tired, barely-open eyes, noisy/wheezy breathing, and that barking cough. When I held her in my arms, she slumped against me and put her cheek against my chest. She tried to talk to me, but only a hoarse croaking came out. She had lost her voice.

Something was most definitely wrong.

A long wait at the doctor’s office later (note to everyone: ALWAYS have food with you when you’ve got kids at an appointment. I had to scrounge through both my purse and diaper bag to come up with 2 boxes of raisins and a bag of cookies) and the verdict was: normal cold for Sean, croup for Allie. And just what is that? (Aside from whatever Diana’s sister had in “Anne of Green Gables”?):

Croup: Viral croup; Laryngotracheobronchitis – acute; Spasmodic croup

Croup is breathing difficulty accompanied by a “barking” cough. Croup, which is swelling around the vocal cords, is common in infants and children and can have a variety of causes.

According to the NIH (PubMed Health), symptoms include:

A cough that sounds like a seal barking. Most children have what appears to be a mild cold for several days before the barking cough becomes evident. As the cough gets more frequent, the child may have labored breathing or stridor (a harsh, crowing noise made during inspiration).

Croup is typically much worse at night. It often lasts 5 or 6 nights, but the first night or two are usually the most severe. Rarely, croup can last for weeks. Croup that lasts longer than a week or recurs frequently should be discussed with your doctor to determine the cause.

If you’ve never seen or heard a child with stridor, you’re lucky. It sounds like this rattly-wheezing coming from their chest, and their little stomachs suck in so far you’re amazed that you can’t see their backbone from the front. Sean had it as a baby, and its terrifying as a parent to know that your kid is struggling to breathe.

The doctor prescribed her a corticosteroid (which she started in the office) to help reduce the swelling in her upper airway and ordered us to keep our humidifiers (yes, PLURAL) going 24-7, to raise the head of her crib, and to take her into a steamy shower if she needed it.

And yes, that’s really all you can do: Be vigilant, pay attention, and if it gets worse/she has more problems: call the doctor and get to the ER. We also needed to keep Sean home until Wednesday to make sure he didn’t come down with it, and Allie needed to stay home until Thursday.

I slept in fits that night, waking up every time I heard a sound coming from her room. The next day, my mom came up to help with them. Honestly, a life-saving move. Allie couldn’t stand to be more than 2 inches away from me at all times. Sean also wanted constant attention. The fact that Grandma was there to sit with him, stroke his hair, give him 100% of her attention? Made him SO HAPPY. Despite the cold.

And then at exactly 3 p.m., Hubbs walked through the door.

He looked at me, said “I feel sick”, and went into our room and closed the door.

I left the kids with my mom and followed him: He felt nauseous, felt cold, his skin was clammy, yet he had a fever. The man had the flu.

And that is when I looked up at the sky and screamed.

Well, in my fantasy, that’s what I did. In reality, I went and got him a cup of Emergen-C with a straw and 3 Advils before closing the door and washing my hands and shooing my mother out of the house for her own safety.

I won’t bore you with details about that night and the next day except to say that I’ve slept on the couch for the past couple of nights in an attempt to stay healthy and that its exhausting to take care of 3 sick people  at the same time. Especially when 2/3 of them are under 3 years old.

And if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get another cup of coffee.


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