A sick baby abroad

Seeing your baby sick at any time must be challenging but their first illness when you’re away on holiday and aren’t sure whether what you are doing for them is right or not? Terrifying.

Just under 48 hours after we landed in South Africa, our just 5 month old started projectile vomiting everything that he ate. The day before had been 38°C so he hadn’t been that interested in eating and now we faced a reality of possible dehydration. I can’t explain how helpless I felt, we were on the farm at this point – miles away from any medical care and even further from any big hospitals. I googled the crap out of everything and panicked even more.

As prepared as I was for the flight with disposable sterilised bottles and enough nappies for two days I was also naive enough to not consider illness. Sure after a long flight you always feel a bit rough but we’ve never picked anything up besides a case of the sniffles (touch wood). Thankfully at 5 months old Alex had completed his course of vaccinations because if he hadn’t had his rotavirus vaccination we would have been dealing with a much more severe situation.

The poor little mite was sick for just over a week and it was so stressful. Not only were we worried to death about Alex’s intake and lack of output but one by one we all fell at the hands of this virus.

The most important thing we did was monitor his temperature. If he had had a fever at any point we would have taken him straight to hospital – first time parent panic or not; a dehydrated baby with a fever is a hectic thing. Luckily we had no bouts of fever.

The second thing we did was start monitoring everything that went in and everything that came out. We used the NHS guideline of less than 6 wet nappies in a 24hour period to be a source of concern.

There was a whole day when Alex had no formula whatsoever but he did drink small sips of cooled boiled water as well as 250mls of an oral rehydrate solution. The vomiting stopped after 24 hours but the diarrhea went on for almost the full week. We reintroduced formula in small amounts over shorter time periods and by day 5 he had built up to his usual daily quota and we were exhausted, relieved, stressed out and overwhelmingly grateful.

I learnt that my husband and I make eachother not only better people but better parents. I learnt that our son is good natured even when he is at his worst. I learnt that it doesn’t matter where we are or what is going on but that our instinct carries a hell of a lot of weight when it comes to looking after our little guy.

My only hope for first time parents the world over is that when that first sickness strikes, because it will, that you are somewhere you feel secure and comfortable. That you have what you need and who you need with you. That it can be managed with no more than a doctor’s visit at worst and that you trust your gut – because I promise you, your gut is smarter than you think.

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