CARE OF THE SICK CHILD AT HOME
The person taking care of a sick child should wear clothing that can be laundered (for example, a coverall apron that can be worn and left in the sickroom). Wash the hands with soap and running water immediately after each handling of the sick child. Ignore suggestions of neighbors and relatives. Visitors should not be allowed because they could be carrying infections that the now run-down patient cannot resist.
A separate room, well-ventilated, well-lit, and near the bathroom is best. The temperature the patient prefers is important. For a child too young to express a preference, it is best to keep the temperature between 68 and 72 degrees while the patient is sleeping. It is helpful to put the child in warm clothing and to ventilate the room 3 times a day--on arising, after lunch, and before retiring. Lighting can be adjusted depending on the patient's preference.
The room should contain a minimum of equipment:
Give the child a light, warm sponge bath and a clean set of sleeping garments on arising and retiring. Clean the child's teeth and comb the hair--important points for general morale.
- Comb, brush, washcloths, towels, toothbrush and toothpaste, and a basin, if needed, for vomitus.
- A clinical thermometer, 70(enb) alcohol, tissues for nose and throat discharges, a paper or plastic bag to discard the used tissues. (The top of this bag should be tied before careful disposal.)
- Take medications with you when you leave a child's room, and lock them in the medicine cabinet for safety.
- Bed clothing should be made of light, washable materials. Change a baby's diapers frequently. For children not in diapers who cannot control body discharges while they are ill, protection such as a vinyl mattress cover, rubber sheet, oil cloth, or even newspapers under the sheet can be used. A plastic case under a cloth pillowcase helps to prevent contamination of the pillow. Sheets can be washed and then sterilized by hot ironing.
- Eating utensils should be the disposable type, or else should be kept separate and boiled for 5 minutes before putting them back with the family dishes.
Use toys and books that are washable. Otherwise, air them for 24 hours after the illness, or discard them.
After an illness of the virus type, airing the room for 6 to 12 hours will be sufficient to kill the virus. After bacterial infection such as streptococcus, wash down the walls and furniture with disinfectant washes.
The child who feels well enough can spend time out of bed and can even be taken out in the car.
Unless there is an emergency, report on the following during your doctor's "call hours" the next day:
--The child's temperature.
--Quality and duration of sleep.
--Amount of urine passed (in babies, the diapers were dry for how long?).
--Amount of liquids taken.
--Attitude or mood of the child (irritable, cheerful, etc.).
--Any new symptoms, such as rash, pain and its locations, diarrhea, vomiting, cough, nasal congestion.
Outdoor activities such as an airing, a ride in a car, or ventilating the room may be beneficial even for a child with fever. Keep a sick child away from people, because they can transmit new diseases when the child is run-down.
Playing outdoors with other children or going back to school or daycare depends upon the disease, how fast the patient responds to treatment, and the results of appropriate laboratory tests. In most instances the child should not associate with others for a minimum of 2 days after any fever and 5 days after a streptococcal infection. Also, the child should be as active as during the previously healthy state before being allowed in contact with others. Call your physician during call hours to discuss this aspect of the child's care.