While half of our office was wheezing, sneezing and coughing away over the holidays – I very likely brought some of this communal nastiness home and got my daughter sick. After a few days of incessant coughing and sniffling, the bug was passed from my daughter back to me and then to my wife and we all spent a miserable New Year’s holiday holed up at home taking turns tending to Marianne and each other.
Last Friday (the start of an 8-day work week) rolled around around and my wife and I, who were both still sick, trundled back to work leaving our daughter (also still-sick) in the care of her grandmother and our baby boy at home with the ayi. I felt like utter crap but thought we were out of the woods and thankful my 7-month-old son hadn’t succumbed.
No matter how often you’ve taken care of a sick baby, and regardless of how "routine" childhood illnesses are, seeing your infant listless and burning hot with a fever is terrifying – there’s always that creeping fear that your little one has been stricken by something serious.
Our usually cheerful baby started fussing Sunday night and by Monday morning was throwing up and pooing left and right, and running a temperature of 39 degrees. After getting a semi-panicked call from our ayi, my wife and I rushed home from work and took our baby to the nearest clinic from our home in Shuangjing.
Fortunately our ayi had the foresight to save some of our son’s stool – which was unusually "runny" (forgive my viscerality) – and we were able to quickly get a lab test done. The doctor determined that our son’s tummy troubles was indeed nothing serious and not caused by a bacterial infection, but likely a case of the stomach flu.
This condition is very common at this time of year in Beijing and caused by a variety of viruses (i.e. adenovirus, astrovirus or the rotavirus) that can very easily be spread from carrier to carrier. With all the comings and goings in our house it’s difficult to say from where and how our son picked his bug up but it appeared to be different strain of virus from the one that had made our daughter sick.
Because he had lost so much fluid from constantly throwing up dehydration was the main worry – our baby was unable to keep anything down and by the time we had visited the doctor he hadn’t really managed to eat or drink anything for several hours and his lips were already chapped. She prescribed anti-vomiting medication (Domperidone, a.k.a. Motilium or 吗丁啉 in Chinese, available at most pharmacies for around RMB 10-15 a bottle) and some packets of oral rehydration powder which we were instructed to give to our baby along with (and in lieu of) plain water.
I also had infant Tylenol on hand and the doctor told us that if our son’s temperature continued to exceed 39 degrees Celsius then we could administer 4ml of the medication every 4-6 hours to keep the fever down. Short of any further testing (for which it was too early in the illness to undertake), there was little else that could be said or done so we went home and set about a regimen of giving our baby a little bit of the anti-nausea medication, followed by a small feeding and then the Tylenol. Over the next 12 hours we did two rounds of Tylenol and many smaller feedings – our baby’s fever went down but he was restless for the rest of the night.
Fortunately bouts of the stomach flu usually doesn’t last long (about 48-hours) and our baby’s fever seems to have subsided. He still has some lingering diarrhea, but this should subside in a day or two – we’ve been giving him smecta in the meantime to help settle his tummy (check with your doctor for infant dosages – ours told us to divide up one packet into three doses per day as necessary). With some luck and continual TLC we’re hoping he’ll be completely back to his usual bubbly self within a couple of days.
Update: As of this morning Grandma seems to have caught the bug.