Medications and Items From Home to Use During an Illness or Emergency
By Michelle Bailey, M.D.
I’m writing this from home, dressed in three layers and with all unnecessary electrical items turned off. I’m anxious about when the power may go in and out, and if the water will continue dripping from the faucets. During extreme weather, with doctor’s offices closed, it may be worrisome to think about what you would do if your child is sick.
Right now with the power on, I am available, as are many other Cook Children’s Pediatric and Urgent Care clinics, to do telemedicine Zoom or phone visits. But if a medication is necessary, you’d still be responsible for going into a pharmacy to pick it up. Under some extreme circumstances, there are a few things you can find in your medicine cabinet to use in a pinch. Of course, follow any doctor recommended advice and call 911 if your child is having a medical emergency that needs immediate assistance.
The following is simply what can be done - if absolutely necessary - in extreme circumstances:
- Heating formula or breastmilk bottles: While it’s nice to have a bottle warmer, if the power is out, it is not necessary. Your baby can and will drink milk even if it is cold. So go ahead and offer pumped breastmilk from the fridge, or mix formula powder with room temperature nursery water or even bottled water from the fridge. Room temperature breastmilk or formula should be consumed within 1-2 hours.
- Vomiting: The main goal is to keep your child hydrated. If you have powdered electrolyte solution on hand, such as Pedialyte powder packs, use this. Otherwise, offer frequent sips of water. Motion sickness medication and antihistamines, such as Dramamine and Benadryl, can also offer some relief to nausea and vomiting.
- Fever: If your child’s temperature is above 100.4F, use a weight-based dose of fever reducing medication. If you are out of medication, use natural ways to reduce temperature such as removing a layer of clothing, place cool wet rags to the forehead, armpits and back, and offer sips of cold water, popsicles or even yogurt. There is no “brain boiling” temperature, but you will want to keep your child comfortable by lowering their fever. Remember, fever is an actual thermometer measured temperature of above 100.4F, not just how warm your child feels.
- Wheezing, coughing, fast or difficulty breathing: If your child is in respiratory distress, call for an ambulance. If they are having a worsening cough or wheezing and you have a nebulizer and albuterol medication at home, start using it as directed on the prescription. It is always helpful for your child with asthma or wheezing to have a backup albuterol inhaler and spacer, in the event power goes out and you cannot use the nebulizer machine. If it has been awhile since you put together the nebulizer and tubing, here is a refresher video, click on the “using a nebulizer” tab: https://cookchildrens.org/pediatrics/McKinney/Pages/video-library.aspx. And in the most extreme of circumstances, if your child is wheezing or having trouble breathing and you are out of nebulizer medication, and/or or power is out, and you don’t have the albuterol inhaler, and you can’t drive to the emergency room, and 911 says they are 30 minutes away…. you get it, worst of worst scenarios, then offer your child some coffee or other highly caffeinated beverage. Caffeine is a weak bronchodilator, which can reduce respiratory muscle fatigue and can improve lung function for up to two hours. This is not to say coffee or soda is a replacement for your child’s prescribed inhaler, but it can make a difference when minutes matter during an impossibly unprecedented situation.
Again, call your child's pediatrician FIRST and speak to the doctor or nurse before trying any of the above. Please stay safe and stay warm!
I’m a board-certified pediatrician, passionate about ensuring the well-being of patients ranging from newborn through late teens.
I attended medical school at the University of Oklahoma (Boomer!), and completed my pediatric residency in Houston.
Since the completion of residency, I’ve worked in outpatient clinics and enjoy not only caring for my young patients, but becoming a part of every family by building long-lasting, trusting relationships. While I treat common and not-so-common childhood infections and diseases, I especially have a passion for asthma and allergies, nutrition, and ADHD along with other learning disorders.
I’m married and we have a rescue dog named Jack. When not at work, I enjoy attending cultural events and traveling. To make an appointment with Dr. Bailey, click here or call 682-303-1000.