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Why Kids Get Sicker at Night

Earache

why it's worse at night: Whether the infection is in the middle ear or in the ear canal (also called swimmer's ear), these puppies can hurt. Lying down increases the collection of fluid and puts extra pressure on the inflamed tissue.

what to do: Ibuprofen (for kids older than 12 months) or acetaminophen can help relieve the ache, but you can also try this remedy for severe pain from middle ear infections: "Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in the microwave so it's warm -- but not hot -- to your touch," says Dr. Leeds. "Put two to three drops of the warm oil in your child's affected ear. It relaxes the membranes and brings almost instant relief." Applying a warm, damp washcloth to your child's ear also can help. Either way, it's smart to check in with your doctor in the morning; your child may need an antibiotic to clear the infection if it's not improving on its own (as many do). If your child is prone to them, ask about getting prescription eardrops to numb the pain next time around.

 

Fever

why it's worse at night: Body temperature rises naturally in the evening, so a fever that was slight during the day can easily spike during sleep.

what to do: First, take your child's temperature (do it rectally if she's under 6 months old -- and, ideally, for as long as she'll allow this method). Any fever above 100.4°F in an infant under 3 months warrants an immediate call to the doctor. Same goes for an elevated temp in any child that's accompanied by lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, stiff neck, or an unusual rash.

Otherwise, try a dose of acetaminophen, wait half an hour, and check the temperature again, says Dr. Leeds. "If it hasn't begun to come down and she's older than a year, give your child some ibuprofen, too," she adds. "You can use these medications together, separated by half an hour. Just remember that acetaminophen can be given every four hours, and ibuprofen can be given every six to eight hours." (Write down the time of each dose to help you keep track.) In the meantime -- and if you're not too delirious -- you can give your child a room-temperature bath to help cool her down. And definitely help her stay hydrated by offering some water (or formula or breast milk if she's a baby) before she goes back to sleep. Call the doctor in the morning to check in; she may want you to bring your child in.

 

Itchy skin

why it's worse at night: When your child is lying still, it's a whole lot easier to focus on the itchiness, whether it's due to poison ivy, bug bites, eczema, or even sunburn. And if the itchy skin is rooted in some kind of allergy, you've got the higher nighttime levels of histamines to thank.

what to do: Take some advice from Tyler Bingham of Lynn Haven, Florida, whose 4-year-old daughter has eczema. "Katie's skin is always itchier at night," says Bingham. "So before she goes to bed, we use a moisturizing body wash, then I'll massage a dry-skin lotion, usually one from Aveeno, onto her legs, where her eczema is the worst. The massage calms her and the lotion soothes. If need be, I also run a cool-mist humidifier in her room to keep the air moist."

Dealing with an allergic rash or lots of bites? An antihistamine can bring relief. A topical cortisone cream can help as well, but again, avoid using this type of product before you have specific instructions from your ped.

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