God’s Precious Patients: Ten Ways to Protect Your Chronically Ill Child Over Christmas
Let’s face it—Christmas is for children. When you’re caring for a child with a chronic illness, holidays are a time when the ability to be flexible, readjust, and have realistic expectations is important. Some normal traditions may need to be reevaluated—such as foods, decorations, gifts, and activities. Risks come packaged as germs, the environment, and people who don’t understand your worries.
It’s better to be safe than sorry. Thinking outside the box is mandatory. The goal is to keep the child well, while still enjoying every precious memory. Taking some precautions ahead of time and as you go along will allow you to focus on the most important elements of the holidays: love and family.
Here are ten things that can help:
Limit the child’s time outdoors, especially if he has a respiratory issue. When he’s outside, make sure that he wears a hat, scarf, gloves, and boots—all the protective gear. Avoid the wet and cold combination! And, if the child has cancer, being outside in the cold may cause skin problems. It may be best to just take a ride in the car and look at Christmas decorations.
Food should not be left open on the table for more than two hours, and then it’s off to the refrigerator or freezer. Avoid double-dipping, community bowls, or sharing food. Teach your child the correct way to wash her hands—make it fun by singing “Jingle Bells”! To boost the child’s immune system, keep her well hydrated with water, juice, and milk (skip the sugar-laden drinks). Talk to the pediatrician about vitamins or other supplements that might help in this “high risk” time of year.
Baking cookies is fun, but don’t allow the child to eat unbaked cookie dough or handle the raw eggs (a salmonella risk). Use milk that has been pasteurized. If the illness is a respiratory problem, have him stand back to avoid flour puff clouds that can be breathed in. Regular food precautions apply—avoid using sponges, sanitize cutting boards and work areas, and wash kitchen towels daily.
Just say “no” to community play areas, even in the mall! Your child might beg to go there, but these are home to a multitude of dangerous germs. They are unsafe on many levels.
Instead of sitting on Santa’s lap, have your child stand next to him for a photo and chat. Consider the ripple effect—how many germs have been left on Santa’s suit? When was it cleaned? If it’s a must, bring a towel for your child to sit on. Try to schedule the visit at non-peak hours. If there are children in line who look sick, come back later.
Live trees, Christmas plants, and their containers are a haven for bacteria and bugs. If the artificial tree and boxes of decorations have been stored in a dusty attic or damp basement, unbox them outside, air them out, and check for mold.
Smaller parties and family gatherings at your home will allow you to control the child’s environment and risk tolerance. Post a sign on the door: “If you’re sick or have been exposed to illness, please wear a mask or come back later.” Have a sanitation station at the door, and make it the shoe depository. While the adults use the chairs, often children gravitate to the floor—not a good plan! Set up a small table with chairs where the children can play.
Visiting may be necessary, but going to grandmother’s house might mean exposure to the very dangers that you avoid at home. Would grandmother mind if you paid to have her house cleaned before you arrive? What a great gift (for everyone)! And, practice safe loving this holiday season. Hugs are great, but kisses should be left on the cheeks.
When Santa delivered the toys, how many elves or grabbing hands at the toy store touched them first? Toys should be sanitized before they’re wrapped. And have antibacterial wipes next to the gift opening station on Christmas morning. Stuffed animals (just like clothes) can be a place for germs to hide, so washable ones are best. If you’re not sure, put them in a tightly sealed plastic bag for a week before Christmas morning. According to my source, this will kill any microorganisms before they’re handed off to your child. Make sure that all electronic game controls are sanitized. Pets are great for morale, but cute puppies can be a full-time cleaning job that you don’t need. If a dog is a must on Santa’s list, consider one that is already trained. Have it groomed before it goes under the tree.
Caroling is good for children of all ages and is a perfectly safe activity. Music has a special place in every happy holiday.
# # #
Special thanks to my elves:
Theresa Gratton has eighteen years of experience as a registered nurse, eight years in critical care, and eleven years as an infection preventionist. Theresa has created programs for every age group on health-related issues from young children to adults. Theresa is a team member with Chasing4Life (www.chasing4life.org).
With more than thirty-five years of experience, Gina Kaurich is a registered nurse with an MBA and is a professional certified master coach and trainer in the healthcare field. She works for FirstLight HomeCare as executive director of client care services.
The Saving of Gordon: Lifelines to W-I-N Against Cancer
(available at www.BasketofCare.com)
Based on Joni’s experience and years of research, this inspirational and informative book is designed to give families a fighting chance in their own cancer battle.
Would you like to send something special to someone who’s going through a health-related hardship this holiday season? Instead of a poinsettia or fruitcake, why not send them a Basket of Care (www.BasketofCare.com)? These baskets are lovingly designed by a cancer survivor and chock-full of items that will lend comfort. Or what about a “Day at the Beach” basket for a child who is ill? A Basket of Care is just the right way to show you care over the holidays.