'Fit your own oxygen mask first.' 12 ways to survive dreaded cold and flu season at daycare.

It all sneaks up on you so quickly. One minute you're enjoying the warm weather and the next minute the temperatures drop. Then it appears. The one singular dribble that rolls down from your child's nostril which marks the beginning of the dreaded cold and flu season at daycare.

About a month ago I enrolled my daughter in daycare for the first time. It has been a period full of mixed emotions. On one hand, there has been sadness over the passing of time - my little baby is growing up. But on the other hand, I've been positively giddy over the prospect of a little bit of freedom. Being able to have a shower and eat my lunch in solitude? Take my money!

Watch: Here's how to keep your kid's lunch fresh and cool. Post continues after video.

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But in the weeks that have passed I have had a crash course in how to manage the barrage of illness that comes your way when your child is in daycare. It hasn't been fun - in fact it has been bloody tough - but here are a few things I've learned and some tips that have helped me survive thus far.

1. Apologise to your other mum friends.

Before I became a 'daycare mum' I would listen on as my friends told me their horror stories of colds that turned into hand-foot-and-mouth that rolled into gastro eventually taking the whole household out. I naively offered my sincerest condolences that their family toilet was getting such a good workout - but I didn't really understand what they were going through. As soon as my daughter caught her first cold (that manifested into several other illnesses) I shot a text to a few mum friends to let them know how sorry I was for not truly getting it before. Of course they all responded with beautiful messages of support and told me to make sure there's some wine fully stocked in the fridge moving forward.


2. Keep the fluids up.

This goes for everyone in the household. My GP has told me on more than one visit that it is essential to keep fluids up for your child even if they've gone off their food. My daughter has been a fantastic eater since we started solids, so to see her completely rejecting food has been incredibly stressful. But I'm doing what I can to ensure she keeps hydrated. Pick up some Hydralyte ice poles and keep some apple juice on hand and water it down in your child's drink bottle whenever they take a bit of a turn.

3. Get comfortable wiping a snotty nose 659 times a day.

If the idea of wiping mucus from someone else's face makes your stomach turn, I'm sorry to say but you better get used to it. Like a leaky faucet that won't stop dripping, your child's nose will most likely run from June until September and there's nothing you can do except be at the ready to swiftly remove it with a wipe. They're going to hate it and will most likely scream at you so be prepared to act fast and with precision. Also, don't be ashamed if your child starts to look like that 'crusty kid' with dried snot on their face. You'll most likely see 15 more just like them when you head out and about - and their parents will shoot you a knowing look and compassionate nod of the head.

4. Give your employer a heads up.

It must be said that we have a long way to go in setting up appropriate support for parents in the workforce but until we see meaningful reform across the board, it's a good idea to send a courtesy note to your employer. Let them know that during the winter months daycares become a little overwhelmed with viruses so you may need some flexibility. Hopefully, they're understanding and can help you as you navigate this stage.


5. Teach your child good hygiene.

As we've all learned from COVID-19, regular hand washing is an incredibly effective tool in the line of defence against viruses. And it is truly never too early to get on board the good hand hygiene train. Make handwashing a part of your everyday routine from waking up in the morning, to before mealtimes and after playing with toys. You'll be surprised how quickly your little one picks it up and if there's a small chance, it could help you avoid another nasty bug - it's worth taking the time to implement these practices (even if it gets a bit messy).

6. Set boundaries.

I have always been a big advocate for setting boundaries when it comes to my child, especially when it comes to kissing them. I know everyone has their own personal rules about how they prefer others to interact with their child, but make sure you stay firm with whatever they are and let anyone who comes in contact know. For me, telling friends and family not to kiss my child is my way of protecting both my daughter and others from contracting any illness. Again, this is one of my own personal rules but the point is, if you have boundaries that will help you keep your child healthy, make sure to enforce them.

Listen to This Glorious Mess where we talk about the different types of centres out there and benefits of sending your little ones to daycare. Post continues below.

7. Listen to your gut.

I must admit I oscillate wildly between being overcautious and then not wanting to be too pedantic when it comes to my daughter's health. This is a hangover from going through postpartum anxiety early in my motherhood journey. But this experience navigating daycare illnesses has taught me to listen to my gut. We all have mother's intuition but we have to train ourselves to listen in to it. When it comes to my daughter's health I have adopted a mindset that has served me well so far. If I have the smallest niggling feeling, she is not well I will seek the advice of a medical practitioner - if there is something wrong, great, they can provide professional help and if there isn't anything wrong, I can feel at ease. I know this is easier said than done when we are working and time poor but this feels like the best way to provide the best care for my child.


8. Keep calm.

Unfortunately, a few weeks ago my daughter's cold quickly took a turn, and we found ourselves on the way to the ER. At that moment I was terrified. I was scared. But I had to keep it together for my child. There have been many instances in motherhood where you have to be brave but this one was a gut punch. But I would put that face on again and again just to make sure my daughter had a safe and calm space in my arms amongst the chaos.

9. Make the plans.

You might find that throughout the cooler months your social calendar really goes to sh*t. Not that I really get out much these days but when you have a child in daycare, social activities get cancelled left, right and centre. Whether it's your friend's kid coming down with a cold or you're in the trenches of gastro, it becomes bloody hard to lock in a catch up. But my advice is to continue to make the plans, it'll make you feel a bit normal. And if you catch a window where nobody is sick - jump at the opportunity! Otherwise just plan a really, long, long lunch for September when the weather starts to warm up.

10. Look after yourself.

I know we've all heard this a million times, but - you've got to fit your oxygen mask first! With daycare exposing your child to plenty of viruses, there's a high chance you'll be struck down at some point too. Be sure to take great care of yourself - take your supplements to protect your immune system from any nasty little bugs.


11. Call on your support system.

We all know that raising a child takes a village so don't be too proud to call on your support system to lend a helping hand. Reach out to see if anyone in your circle can make a meal or watch your child if you need to work. Be sure to have an open line of communication with your partner too. If you have a big meeting coming up that you can't miss, make sure you have a plan of action in case your child gets sick and they need collecting from daycare. Share the load and try not to drown in the gravity of these challenging times. There is light at the end of the tunnel but sometimes we all need a little bit of help getting there.

12. You will survive.

This last one is less a piece of advice on how to survive and more of a warm, digital hug. If you're going through a tough time with daycare illnesses at the moment: I see you and I feel you. Over the past few weeks there have been countless moments where my spirit has been broken. But I've made it through. There's still a long winter ahead but I know I can survive. And you will too. You are an incredible parent. From the minute you started this journey as a parent, right up until now, you've proven that you can do hard things. You've got this.

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