Well, we are nearly a full week into November, and already, the seasonal illnesses have reared their ugly heads in my house. In the past two weeks, my kids have battled croup, a bronchial infection, and a double ear infection. They’ve taken turns being miserable (see above sad photo!) and I haven’t slept well in approximately 14 days. However, in my 8th “cold season” as a parent, I’ve learned a few things, and I feel more able to handle the germs that these boys throw at me– and throw they do!

My older son has been prone to croup since he was 18 months old. I will never forget his first croup attack. ‘Twas the night before Easter, and of course I was hosting, and of course my in-laws were flying in the very next day. As I was doing my (ahem) annual dusting-before-company extravaganza, I hear the horrible barking cough of croup over the baby monitor. It came on suddenly and severely. He was struggling to breathe, and gasping. I later learned that he was indrawing, meaning his chest wall was being visibly sucked in with each breath, and I could hear wheezing when he wasn’t even coughing. We abandoned all Easter prep and headed to the ER, where he received inhaled epinephrine, oral steroids, and oxygen. We later learned that some kids are simply prone to croup, and had at least 3 more future croup-related ER trips.

My younger son is fortunately not as prone to croup. His very first bout was this past week, at age 4, which is much less terrifying than a croupy baby. However, after he had a stomachache-turned intussusception-turned surgery last February, I’m still a little on edge whenever he says he’s feeling sick. Being hospitalized for three days and seeing him wheeled back into the operating room was a scary experience that we’d all like to never, ever repeat.

That said, there are things I do now to be more prepared for this season of germs. Aside from making sure my children have proper rest and nutrition, I try to be mindful of the following “sick day readiness” tips:

*Keep the car filled with fuel and ready. I’m terrible about letting my car run low on gas, and rely way too much on the “distance to empty” countdown. I’ve been known to cruise into the pump with 5 miles remaining. This time of year, I try to keep the tank at least half full in case of emergencies.

*Have the humidifier easily accessible. 9 times out of 10, we learn we need to plug in the humidifier at about 2 am, when we’re awoken by a coughing child. It makes its way to the depths of the closet over the summer, but we drag it to the front just in case when cold season hits.

*Keep an “emergencies” kit in your car. This might sound silly, but it really won’t if you end up needing it! When my younger son needed surgery last winter, I was completely unprepared. I had no idea we’d be in the hospital overnight, let alone for 3 days. I had contact lenses in my eyes with no case or glasses, no toothbrush, and no extra clothes. Keep a pair of sweats, extra toothbrush, and essentials in your trunk just in case.

*Check expiration dates on commonly used children’s medicines, such as ibuprofen, Tylenol, and Benadryl. Restock them if needed before you learn they’re all expired in the middle of the night. Also, test out the thermometer batteries, and be sure it’s working properly.

*Keep track of your child’s approximate weight. If you haven’t weighed your children recently, do so when they’re healthy and agreeable so you can dose their medication appropriately in the middle of the night.

*Grab “sick kid” foods before you need them. I learned the hard way that being home with a child who is throwing up is not the time to realize you’re out of soup, honey, tea, crackers, and popsicles. Just keep them on hand in case you need them this winter…for the kids or for yourself!

Here’s hoping that no one will need this list, but just in case, I hope it helps! If you have any other tips on how to be prepared for cold and flu season, I’d love to hear them!