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How to Survive Being Up All Night With a Sick Kid

"It's the worst cold and flu season I can remember," our pediatrician said to me this past Saturday as I brought my 8-year-old in for the fourth time in as many weeks. This time, my kid was complaining of a headache and a sore throat. I knew that meant he probably had a sinus or ear infection, which I wanted treated as fast as possible.

It's not just that I wanted to help my son get better as soon as possible, which I did. But selfishly, I wanted a break, too. The night before, his headache had woken him (and me) up three times. This is just four days after he had been taken down by a nasty flu that left him battling a 103-degree fever for three days and nights. He was unable to sleep as his body went from too cold to too hot and back through the cycle again. So I slept with him.

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Actually, I should correct that. I didn't sleep a wink. My sick kid slept like an acrobat, I couldn't find the thermometer at 2 a.m., my feet were freezing, and it's impossible for two people to get any kind of sleep in a twin bed. Plus, my son's fever scared me. I'm not sure if I'd have been able to rest even if he slept peacefully.

Every parent has to be on the ready to mentally and physically survive.

When my kids were infants, I remember mentally preparing myself for the potential of being up all night with one of them. Since my kids can't seem to stop getting sick this year, I'm preparing myself again. In fact, every parent has to be on the ready to mentally and physically survive being up all night when his or her kids are sick.

So the next time one of my kids goes to sleep with so much as a runny nose, I'm doing these 10 things. Because the only thing worse than being up all night with a sick kid is being unprepared to be up all night with a sick kid.

1. Have your supplies in the sick one's room or bathroom ahead of time.

2 a.m. is a terrible time to play "Where's the Tylenol?" So have any medications your kid might need already placed in his or her room. Know where the humidifier is before you go to bed, or fill it before you say goodnight to your little one. You're not going to want to search for it at midnight.

2. Make sure the thermometer works, batteries and all.

If you're like me, you've got a dozen thermometers and none of them work. Or if they do, you don't remember how to work them. Sound familiar? You're not alone. If your kid isn't feeling well or goes to sleep feeling warm, dig up that thermometer, remind yourself how it works (you can usually Google the instructions for digital ones if your toddler long since turned the instructions into an art project) and make sure it has batteries that actually work. It's a lot easier for you or your spouse to run out to get a working thermometer at 8 p.m. than at 2 a.m. Trust me, I've done both!

3. Go to sleep in sleeves!

Even if it's the warmest summer night, you will be freezing when you try to soothe your sick kid at 3 a.m. while wearing that adorable tank top and PJ bottoms. When the kids are sick and might keep you up all night, it's not the time for tiny pajamas. Brr!

4. Cancel your early morning wishful thinking workout.

If it's clear you're going to be up with one of your kiddos, give yourself a hall pass from that early morning workout you'd planned weeks in advance. You may be just getting to sleep when that 6 a.m. spin class starts. You can go another day.

5. Don't expect to sleep.

If you are the parent of a sick child, denial is your enemy. If you don't expect to get your normal night's sleep, you won't be quite so annoyed when you don't.

6. Decide ahead of time if you or the hubs is the one getting up.

3 a.m. negotiations rarely go well and usually end in a fight.

My husband and I decide in advance who is going to get up with one of our sick kids based on who has the busier work day the following day, but every couple has their way of negotiating. The point is, decide ahead of time. 3 a.m. negotiations rarely go well and usually end in a fight.

7. Put a pad of paper and pen near your kid's bed so you can write down medication times.

You may think you'll have no problem remembering when you gave your kiddo Tylenol. But after a hazy night of almost no sleep, even simple math gets tricky. So do yourself and your kid a favor and just have a pad of paper and a pen nearby. Jot down that time so you don't have to spend the night wondering when the next time is that you can give your sick child medicine again.

8. For the love of God, put some socks on your feet.

No one will judge you for just how unsexy you look. But your sick kid will probably be a blanket hog, if you get any at all. Think ahead and put on some socks!

9. Put your sick kid to bed in the most comfortable bed in the house, even if it's not his.

If your kid is really sick and might require you to sleep nearby, do yourself the favor of putting him or her to sleep in the guest room with the bigger bed if possible or do some bed-swapping. You're probably going to end up sleeping with your kid so you might as well be comfortable. If your child has a twin bed, you'll realize just how hard it is to get cozy with no space.

10. Charge your phone.

You'll probably want to Google every symptom your kid has all night so prepare in advance. Have your phone charged and nearby. You're going to need it!

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And if you're up all night with a sick infant, there's a good chance you're going to spend the duration of the night sitting up in a rocking chair with your sick baby slumped over your shoulder. It'll feel like this phase where your baby needs you so much will never end, but it will. And in no time, you'll be awake all night with your toddler or big kid. You won't get any more sleep, but at least this time you'll be prepared.

Now let's hope you don't get sick, too. Someone's got to be up all night with your sick kids! A-choo!

Photograph by: Twenty20

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