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Why Kids Get Sicker at Night

Stuffy nose

why it's worse at night: Too bad kids can't sleep standing up like horses -- then their nasal passages wouldn't swell more when they sleep!

what to do: For immediate relief, use saline nose drops or spray. Both will moisten the membranes and loosen the secretions, making it easier for your child to blow out the mucus, or for you to remove it with a bulb syringe if you have a baby. "My nine-month-old, Hamza, hated the bulb syringe whenever I used it on him," says Diana Malikyar, who lives in Stone Mountain, Georgia. "But then I laid him down in front of the bathroom mirror so he could watch me doing it. Once it stopped taking him by surprise, he was very willing to let me use it."

You may be tempted to offer your child a decongestant, but they're no longer recommended for kids under 2, and many doctors advise against giving them to older kids. There's no evidence that they work, and some that they could cause harm. And unless you're positive the stuffiness is due to allergies, steer clear of antihistamines, too.



why it's worse at night: It's not that kids are necessarily more likely to throw up at night; it's more that it feels about ten times worse because you usually end up having to change bedsheets, clean up rugs, change and wash pajamas -- all when you're bone tired. Then you have to worry that it could happen again. (Oh, and it's pretty awful for your kid.)

what to do: First, make sure your child isn't throwing up anything green or bloody; if he is, call the doctor, as this could indicate a more serious condition. Same goes for vomiting accompanied by pain in the lower right side of the abdomen. If it's just run-of-the-mill vomiting, do your best to clean up and calm down your child. Comfort him with a cool, wet washcloth on his forehead and face, then let him go back to sleep, with a plastic bowl or other container by his bed in case he feels sick again. If he's still awake an hour later but hasn't vomited again, try giving him small sips of flat cola or ginger ale, if you have it. "You can also try opening up a can of pears or peaches and giving the child one tablespoon of the syrup inside every fifteen minutes," says Philip Itkin, M.D., clinical associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Nebraska Medical College in Omaha. "It really helps settle the stomach and keeps him hydrated." An ice pop is a good alternative, too.

Elisa Pollack Kandel is no stranger to middle-of-the-night vomit sessions. "My four-year-old daughter has a weak stomach, and one night she threw up a grand total of fourteen times, beginning at three A.M.," says Kandel, who lives in Merrick, New York. "Since then, I've learned to keep hand towels in her night-table drawer and a plastic wastepaper basket by her bed. Plus, the minute I hear her cough at night, I run in and pull back the top sheet and comforter. It really cuts down on the laundry! And whenever pillows go on sale, I buy a couple." Now that's what we call prepared.