The Best Medicine: Treating Toddler Colds

10.04.09: Leo's 17th month


Last week I had a cold: sore throat, mucus, headache, and very, very runny nose. So I stuffed my purse and pockets with tissues and pretended to be stoic with everyone except Aaron, around whom I groaned, moaned and fretted. At night, I’d keep him up discussing whether or not I should take a decongestant. Then, no matter what I took, I’d lie in bed awake most of the night gasping like a fish out of water, my tongue maddeningly drying out as I breathed through my mouth. Then, on Saturday, I woke up when Leo got up. Because I’d been fast asleep. Because my nose had cleared! I was infused with energy and I packed a great bag of spare clothes, snacks, play equipment and birthday presents, then spent the day ferrying Leo from one activity to another.

That night, Leo melted. First, he put his face into his dinner instead of eating it. No problem, not hungry. So Aaron tried to change him for his bath. That’s when he melted, crying so hard he was hyperventilating. He went to sleep with no dinner and no bath. During the night, I could hear him tossing, turning, gasping, coughing, waking to cry (dry tongue I’m guessing) then whimpering back to sleep again. I’d been there. Except, I take Nyquil. I know how to blow my nose. And elevate my head. And catalog my complaints with writerly detail. Leo just seems to wonder why a body of water has moved into his brain and a dusty road is now running through his mouth and throat. When he woke up for real early the next day, I could barely hear him croaking out “Bommybommybommy.” He sounded like a baby Darth Veder.

Poor guy. I got up with him and sponged off his crusty nose, then sat him in his old bouncy seat in front of Sesame Street, though we almost never turn on the TV. As he bounced and watched Ben Stiller (!) perform magic tricks like adding and subtracting, I spoonfed him baby muesli—the kind he hasn’t eaten since he learned to feed himself (or, um, try).

Let’s see, then I wore him in the baby backpack and marched around the house. Then Aaron gave him a nice long push in the stroller and he took a nap. I made a big pot of soothing minestrone for dinner. For a snack, he had a popsicle. We gave him juice instead of water. We gave him carrot cake. Aaron bought him a new bouncy ball. I made him chamomile tea. We read books. Built Lego towers. Drew pictures with crayons that went a little over the borders of the paper and onto the table…rug…and ottoman (washable crayons! Thank you Crayola!). We skipped brushing teeth.

He was definitely not feeling great, but he wasn’t too sick to appreciate the special treatment. In fact, at one point, around the time of the cake and strawberries I believe, Leo was so delighted and amazed that life could be so good that he burst into spontaneous applause. Yay! Everything a baby could want! And nothing he wouldn’t! Hurray!

When he’s feeling better, I suppose we’ll have to go back to vegetables, oral hygiene, rules and all that. And probably, Leo will be so happy to have clear nostrils again that he won’t even mind. I doubt you can spoil a child in a couple days. But you know, I’m going to miss giving Leo the extra-special sick-day treatment. I had no idea it would be such a pleasure coming up with comforting, cheering, fun ways to enjoy a mellow day together. From now on, my mantra is “spoil a fever, coddle a cold.”

Hearty Minestrone Soup