Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Air Travel Tips for the Neurotic

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The past week was filled with a lot of travel. My parents flew back to the Philippines, my husband had a business trip, and then towards the end of said week, our family flew to Chicago for my father-in-law's first death anniversary. Two out of these three trips experienced major delays and caused serious distress.

There are only two things I like about air travel: (1) the shortened travel time (assuming my flight doesn't get delayed or canceled); and (2) the people-watching it affords me which amuses my imagination. I hate everything else especially the airport lines, the germs I have no choice but to inhale while being in a claustrophobia-inducing aircraft, and all the rules and restrictions I have to factor in when packing my stuff. 

Given how neurotic I can be during our family trips, I've found that doing these five things have helped me tremendously in keeping me sane and making air travel more manageable. Hopefully, they could also help you and your family on your next flight.

Travel with a hyper-organized suitcase.

Since I discovered the compression system when packing our suitcases, travel has been a lot more stress-free. It maximizes the space in our luggage and let's face it, they make it look prettier. You can purchase these compression/packing cubes from many retailers these days such as Ikea, TJ Maxx, Walmart or these packing organizers from Amazon and I promise you, you'll never go back to your old ways. If you don't want to spend the money, you can always upcycle those plastic packaging 'cubes' most sheet sets are sold in. The point is, this system makes it easy to locate things in your suitcase, which of course would be very useful in case you suddenly encounter problems with checking in your luggage or have issues with airport security. I once thought these cubes were just a gimmick but I can honestly attest to their usefulness and would never want to travel without them.

Designate a travel outfit. 

The thought of traveling long hours is stressful enough. You wouldn't want to spend any more time figuring out what to wear every single time you have a flight (or a long drive for that matter). This is why I have one or two go-to outfits for every single long trip we have. If I know I would have a way to launder before I fly back, I don't pack a separate outfit for the return trip. I always go for a comfortable pair of jeans, my slip-on Vans to make it easy to go through airport security, and my trusty plaid roll-tab sleeve shirt. It's loose which allows for a lot of movement in case I need to raise my arms and carry multiple things. It's also long enough to cover my hips and butt in case I would need to bend down. The roll-tab sleeves are useful because in case I get cold on the plane, it can turn into a long-sleeved shirt. Give this tip a try and I'm sure you'll be happy you did. The less things for you to think about every time you travel, the better!

Pack a first-aid kit with these essentials, and make sure it's accessible to you during the flight.

I always make sure I have the following: (1) Advil or your choice of pain reliever; (2) a small tube of antibiotic ointment (e.g. Neosporin) and a few bandaids; (3) flushable wet wipes because staying clean and fresh during a long trip are priceless, especially if you are with kids who always find ways of ending up with sticky fingers; and lastbut absolutely necessary for me when I fly—(4) a tube of Ayr Saline Nasal Gel. My son and I tend to suffer through the aircraft's low humidity and I've found that applying a little bit of this all-natural nasal gel helps us tremendously. Don't forget to include a few cotton swabs to help apply that nasal gel.

Bring your own water container...(Keeping hydrated is key for comfort and health, especially during travel).

Because you can't go through airport security with liquids beyond 3.4oz, and buying bottled water at the airport isn't exactly cheap, the best solution is for you to travel with an empty water container which you can just refill using the airport's hydration stations. You can bring a recycled plastic water bottle, but I personally love using our collapsible silicone water bottle. It's very light and I love that I can roll it and put it away in my purse once it's empty. There is no fear of crushing or cracking plastic, unlike with traditional water bottles. 

Gear up for your inner world, and minimize the outside.

As an introvert and a paranoid, I need to make travel as relaxing as possible so as not to be hyper-aware of anxiety-inducing elements beyond my control (e.g. airborne illnesses, confined spaces, rude passengers). As such, I've found that bringing headphones and an eye mask help decompress me when needed. Headphones also come in handy for signalling to others that you're not interested in meaningless chitchat and would rather be left alone. I mostly use mine to listen to calming music and I highly recommend that you download Marconi Union's 'Weightless'. It's known as the most relaxing tune ever composed. Bringing with you a good travel pillow is also highly recommended especially on long trips. I've loved my convertible travel pillow and have tested its usefulness during our 22-hour trip to the Philippines last year. It was a lifesaver!

I know travel is always exhausting and we all wish we can travel first class to make the long hours more bearable. But since most of us don't have that kind of privilege, I want to mention one other thing you might find worth looking forward to—entertaining and pleasant flight attendants. On our most recent flight last week, one flight attendant left us with these wise words and I hope they stick to you as they have on me. After all, what it speaks of is the one thing we all need more of to make life bearable: 

Remember that there are still a lot of kind people in the world. 
If you don't know one, be one.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Tale of Two Streps

Original Image: Guy H

It's never fun for me when I notice my son constantly clearing his throat or hear him sneeze. While most parents simply shrug those off, (or don't even notice), I go the opposite and obsess. It's not plain neuroticism on my part but because 8 out of 10 times, it's never 'just a cold', or 'just allergies' with my son.

On Thursday, August 31, his back-to-back sneezefest started. He also slept feeling very congested that night. He went to school the following day sounding very nasal but still behaviorally normal. He also didn't have a temperature. However, by the evening of September 1st, he developed a fever. This continued all weekend long and by Sunday morning, he started complaining of a slight sore throat and had a dry, 'croupy'/seal-barking cough. I thought, "Oh, it's an upper respiratory infection (URI). Ibuprofen and Mucinex should help."

I was glad that Monday, September 4, was Labor Day so at least he didn't have to miss school. He remained miserable, struggling with dry cough, fatigue, and a worsening sore throat. His fever was also not going away and kept hovering around 102F. By Tuesday morning, I decided to bring him to his pediatrician. I suspected he had Strep, although I was thrown off by his other upper respiratory symptoms. I prayed for a definitive result when his throat got swabbed.

The result came after a few minutes. He was positive for Strep and was prescribed with Augmentin for 10 days. 

I was oddly relieved when I heard this because knowing is better than guessing, and I'm sure the sense of hope I felt when antibiotics were prescribed is something any parent can deeply recognize.

As expected, my 10-year-old had digestive issues with the antibiotic. This was in spite of him taking it with food and amping up his probiotic intake. He had very loose stool for about a week, but fortunately there was no vomiting involved. 

I wish I could say this is the end of our ordeal. The fact is that my worries peaked when I noticed that his fever still didn't end in spite of being on the antibiotics for 48 hours. The evening of September 6 marked his fifth day of having a fever and it was not showing any signs of going away. I was completely losing my mind and couldn't help but utter that prayer every parent knows all too well: Please just let it be me and spare my child. I was deeply concerned and thought it was one of two things: Either he contracted a virus on top of his bacterial infection, or his Augmentin is not cutting it and may need something stronger.

I waited until Friday morning (September 8) to take him back to his doctor. By that day, he finally showed some improvement although he still had a low-grade fever (below 100.4). Nonetheless, I asked that he be re-tested for Strep, as well as be given a flu test. 

Both came back negative which was great news. The doctor said that it means the Augmentin is doing its job, and that judging by my son's appearance and the sound of his cough (wet/junky), she believes he does have a viral infection with his Strep throat. She simply told us to continue with the medication and return if his fever goes back to above 101 again.

Fortunately, he became fever-free all day that Friday and throughout the weekend, and was finally able to go back to school on September 11. To this day, he is still dealing with some cough but nothing too serious. 

As further proof of God's listening ear and sense of humor, I am here to report that just two days ago, September 13, I also tested positive for Strep. I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise considering I was with my son the whole time he was sick. I'm sure he must have coughed on me and breathed on my face when I slept by him.

I'm showing similar symptomsstarted with that throat tickle/itch, dry cough turning junky, tight chest, fever, chills, fatigue, and of course the sore throat. I'm now on Augmentin as well. I don't have the loose stool (just the rumbling stomach), but I do have the headache side effect. Oh yay! 

As PSA to other neurotic parents out there, here are some of my takeaways from this highly bacterial and viral past week:

1. Google, Dr. Sears, Dr. Greene and all the over virtual doctors your fingers have access to are never 100% accurate. Even when they say Strep almost never occurs with nasal drainage and coughing, don't rely on them too much. My son and I both started with mild URI symptoms and then felt the sore throat after two days. Go to the doctor and ask to be swabbed/tested. Don't rely on just a throat visual either. Only an actual Strep test (rapid and/or a throat culture) can confirm the diagnosis and make sure you are not taking antibiotics unnecessarily.

2. Don't underestimate the power of prayers and positive thoughts. I was so desperate on Wednesday night that I posted about my son's condition on Facebook and asked for prayers. Just the thought that people all over the world were praying for and with us, gave me comfort and faith that things will turn around. I felt the difference and I'm sure my son did too. I also had a doctor friend reach out to me, as well as other moms who have been through a similar situation, and I felt so blessed to have received both their support and wisdom. Thank you!

3. Outshine Fruit Bars are the bomb! No, this is not a sponsored post. This was recommended by my friend, Holly J., and now my son and I are hooked. It's non-dairy which makes it really great for strep throat, and is made from real fruits. My son hated the way his Augmentin tasted and Outshine bars saved the day...or 10 days, really. 

4. Never be afraid to ask doctors for tests and be as detailed as you can be with your concerns. You may not be as trained as they are, but you are the best advocate for your and your child's health. When I went to my doctor, I wasn't sure I had Strep. I didn't want to have it and can't even remember the last time I had this infection. But I had to say I needed to be tested, not only because of my sore throat, but also because my son just had it. It made sense to me and that's all that matters. 

5. I highly recommend keeping a 'sick journal'. I had written about this back in 2013 and continue to keep this system. It helps remind me of what is 'normal' for my son and helps me spot red flags more easily. It also helps me keep track of his responses to certain medications so I know not only what to expect, but also what may or may not work for him given certain symptoms. 

I'm just on day 2 of antibiotics and still feeling very fatigued. I think I'll lie down now and ignore the world for a while. I know I need to wash my sheets and sanitize everything, but frankly I don't have the energy yet. For now, walking around with a can of Lysol spray would have to do. Stay healthy, folks!