DEET for Babies?

We have a great pediatrician.  I’m so happy with how through he is, how well he listens, and how seriously he takes my son.  Having said that, I was shocked at the advice we got at our last visit.

He was advising us on proper outdoor summer care for our baby.  He recommended sunscreen to prevent sunburn and DEET for insect repellent.  I said, “unhuh, okay.”  He said that we should just use a tiny amount of the really strong stuff rather than spraying him all over with the “family” DEET.  I said, “oh, okay.”  And then he said that the herbal insect repellents don’t work nearly as well.  And I said, “oh, okay.”

In my defense, I think I was so shocked to hear him recommend DEET for a baby that I didn’t know what to say.  I’ve been told by people who are not really very “naturally minded” that I should never use DEET, and he was telling me to use it on my baby?!?  But as he was saying it (and as I was saying, “okay, doctor”) I knew I would not use DEET on Max no matter what he said.  I really need to work on this.  I usually trust doctors and I don’t know how to question them.  But with my son in the condition he is, I really need to know why they recommend what they recommend in any situation.  “why do we need this test?  What will it show?  And why is it important to know one way or the other? How is knowing going to change his care plan?” (This is important for every parent, by the way.  Doctors should explain things much better than they do, and give alternative treatments.  Unfortunately, most of them aren’t even aware of alternative treatments because the drug companies give them lots of money to promote their products.  But that’s beside the point!)

So when the doctor told me to put DEET on my baby I just said, “okay doctor.”  When I should have said, “Really? I’ve heard that DEET isn’t advised for anyone, and I would think that would apply especially to babies.”  But in my defense, I wasn’t educated about the alternatives.  I knew that herbal insect repellents don’t work very well, but I didn’t know what would.

So when we got home I talked it over with my husband a little bit.  Mosquito bites are uncomfortable, but not really life threatening (at least in our area, West Nile is not an issue).  And you can keep from getting a lot of bites if you are careful and smart about when you are out.  The more serious concern would be ticks and contracting Lyme disease. So I did some research.

I found an article by an herbalist about Lyme Disease (2009 Pathways Magazine).  Apparently, it is easily treated with an antibiotic in many cases.  There are, however, cases that hang around after multiple series of treatments.  These are cases where the tick passes a viral infection in addition to the common bacteria associated with Lyme Disease.  The antibiotics treat the bacteria, but the viral infection continues to cause symptoms.  So the risk relates to the cases where there is both a bacteria and viral infection.  Andrea Candee (author of the article) recommends Eucalyptus essential oil for preventing tick bites.  Now, granted, she is not a doctor (she’s an herbalist!).  Her recommendation hasn’t been peer reviewed or clinically tested, but she’s a mother who spends a lot of time outside in “tick territory,” so I trust her experience.  Here are her dosage recommendations:

16 oz. of water

1 oz. eucalyptus essential oil

Put it in a spray bottle and spray on skin before spending time outside – stays potent for several months

For longer Protection:

10 drops eucalypts

½ oz. almond or sunflower seed oil

Apply to skin and clothing.

So that’s what I will be trying out this summer for insect repellent.  Nothing is a guarantee against insect bites (just like a vaccine won’t guarantee you won’t get a disease).  We still have to be smart.  We will look Max over – head to toe – if we are going to be somewhere there is a large tick population.  We will try to keep him inside during the really buggy time of the night.  We do want to protect him.  We just don’t want to do it with harsh chemicals.

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The Big Green Monster of Jealousy

The other day I was walking back from the grocery store with my baby tied around my trunk (I finally found a “wearing” method he’ll tolerate, very profound for us, as he pretty much hates the stroller), groceries in both arms, when I saw two mom friends of mine (I should say, acquaintances) strolling down the other side of the street with their happy babies in their strollers chit chatting back and forth on their way to the park.  I had seen the e-mail invite for a play date in the park earlier that day, but in addition to Max’s normal maintenance, he was sick, so I knew I couldn’t go.  When I saw these friends walking down the street, the bitter, angry jealousy flowed over me.  As I walked the rest of the way home I thought bitterly, “oh, wouldn’t it be nice if all I needed was my baby and a diaper bag to go anywhere…wouldn’t it be convenient if I could just feed my baby anytime and anywhere…wouldn’t it be nice if my child would be happy and content in a stroller?”

Three weeks ago my sister-in-law had her baby.  I wasn’t happy.  I didn’t rush to give her an emphatic “Congratulations!”  The bitter, angry jealousy came over me and I remember thinking, “well of course her baby is healthy.”

I know it’s normal for parents of kids with disabilities to be a little bit jealous of other kids from time to time.  It’s not like any child deserves to have a disability, and I think our jealousy is our way of sticking up for our kids.  It’s a feeling like “what did my kid do to deserve this when that kid is perfectly healthy.”  But although I don’t think it’s abnormal, I still wonder, “Will it ever stop?”  Will I ever reach a point where I am happy for the son that I have with no comparisons to others?  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my son.  I love everything about him.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t wish that he would smile at me – or look me in the eye – or suck on his fingers – or stick them up his nose.  I see one-month-old babies and get sad because I wish that Max could do the things that they do.  I’ve had all these feelings for 10-months, and I don’t feel like I’m any closer to getting over them.  At times I feel like the more behind Max is (the more milestones he’s missed) the more jealous I get of kids his age.  Will I ever get over it and be content with my life as it is?  Or will I always have moments of jealousy tainting a generally wonderful day?

From time to time, I wonder, if none of this had happened, and Max had stayed the perfectly normal healthy baby that he was in the womb, what would he be like?  Would he be crawling yet?  What would he laugh at, and what would make him cry?  I know this is starting down the road to a dangerous comparison trap, and I don’t want my son to grow up feeling sorry for himself any more than I want to live my life feeling sorry for myself.  That’s not healthy.  I just seem to have a really hard time breaking out of this pattern.

Any advice?  How can I break myself out of a negative thinking pattern into one of joy and gratitude?

Poor, sick baby!

My baby has been terribly sick all week.  It’s just a cold, I guess, but it’s a really nasty one.  It’s so hard to watch him cough and hack and hear all the mucus rattling around in his nose and throat while he works so hard to breathe.  Last week Sunday night is when we noticed it.  He needed to be on his tummy while my husband or I patted on his back so we could help break up the congestion and so gravity would help it out.  I was terrified he was getting pneumonia.  As I sat on the couch with him across my legs, patting his back, my mind raced.  Should we take him to the hospital?  I just wish I had a suction machine to clear some of that out for him.  I knew he had to be as exhausted as I was, but he couldn’t breathe well enough to get to sleep.

He couldn’t keep any milk down and he’d had some diarrhea.  I settled on just taking him in to the doctor, trying not to be the over-reacting mother.  The doctor checked him over thoroughly; he didn’t think it was pneumonia, but did a chest x-ray just to be sure.  No pneumonia.  He sent us home with a nebulizer and had us give him pediatric electrolytes for 24 hours and to add milk back in slowly.  Max’s health improved quickly initially.  When I took him in for a follow-up appointment, I was very confident he would be over it by Monday (the doctor said to bring him in if he wasn’t).  But as the week wore on, it became apparent that he was still struggling with this cold.  He had problems keeping his feedings down when we had him up to his full feedings, and his junky cough wasn’t going away – he still needed the nebulizer at least three times a day.

Meanwhile, this natural mama is exhausted.  Thursday night we had a substitute nurse, whom I had a lot of trouble trusting – resulting in a sleepless night.  Friday night I got to bed late and Max slept poorly causing another night of poor sleep.  Saturday night was another night of poor sleep for baby – leaving me completely depressed.  It’s one of those days that getting out of bed is the last thing I want to do.  I just want to run away and forget that I ever had a child and a husband and a happy life.  You probably think I’m a terrible person now, but if I’m being honest, I have to admit that sometimes I just don’t feel like I can handle it anymore.

I hate the sight of yet another machine in my house to help keep my baby alive.  I hate listening to him cough and rattle.  I wish I could just cough all that junk out for him.  I wish I could make it easier somehow, but I can’t – and I think that’s the hardest part.

I look at this adorable baby, tiny head, overlapping sutures and all, and I can’t help but love him.  Even when I’m at my worst, I love him.  But it is heartbreaking – gut wrenching – to watch him struggle so much without being able to do anything.  The best medicine the US has to offer can’t help him.  I guess that’s why I keep reaching out for alternative methods.