SHTF Pediatric Infection Basics

Learn pediatric infection basics in case the doctor is unavailable

Every parent knows the fear of, well, being a parent. During catastrophic life events, our apprehensions increase. The time to prepare for medical emergencies during an event with no access to doctors is now. Start learning what is normal vs. abnormal and preparing yourself for a time when you may be your child’s best resource for medical knowledge. 

As preparedness-minded parents, we think about the end of the world, but these rules apply during any situation where it is too dangerous to get to a hospital even if one is still open. Events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, civil unrest, wildfires, and anything else you can think of. Use a child’s mind and visualize the worst, but hope for the best. 

An Ounce of Prevention  

Nothing screams louder in medicine than preventing the potential infection from happening in the first place.  

The best way to prevent infection is to not be around those who could transmit the disease to you and your infant in the first place. Use the Time, Distance, and Shielding principles of x-ray exposure to keep yourself away from germs. 

Time: If someone is sick, the less time you have to be around them, the less exposure. 

Distance: Keep at least 6 feet away from adults as this is the general radius for adults droplets carrying germs. 

Shielding: Shield yourself with a face mask and eye protection to protect the mucous membranes in your eyes.

Also, if something such as a blanket is contaminated, the longer that blanket sits outside in the sun, the more germ-killing exposure it will have.  

Use diligent hand washing techniques with regular soap and water (not the antibacterial kind) and thoroughly scrub all surfaces, including in between fingers and under nails, for the length of the “Happy Birthday” song.   

Common Pediatric Ailments

Common pediatric infections include ear infections, respiratory infections, infected cuts and lacerations, whooping cough, hand foot and mouth, strep throat, urinary tract infections, and the common cold. 

Many infections can be viral, which means they will go away in their own time. If there are more than five symptoms in the emergency department world, it is probably a virus.

Whooping cough/Pertussis is a bacterial infection that can go away on its own but can lead to bacterial pneumonia and is more dangerous the younger the child. The best way to prevent children from getting whooping cough is to vaccinate the adults in their lives.

For bacterial infections, if a person chooses to use fish antibiotics as a backup, they must know which specific antibiotic would be the correct one for the particular type of infection. For instance, your child will require a different antibiotic for an ear infection vs. pertussis vs. a urinary tract infection.

Common and Not So Common Supplies

Keep common (and not so common) items on your child emergency preparedness list handy for times of infections when no help is available:

  1. Liquid medicine with measuring cups/syringes for pain, fever, cold symptoms. (Pediatricians do NOT recommend “cold/cough medicine” for children younger than six years old)
  2. Dissolvable/chewable medicine
  3. “Squirt guns” or dedicated clean squirt bottle for high-pressure wound cleaning. Performed with sterilized water.
  4. Silver Ointment or Melaleuca Honey wound-healing gel
  5. Lidocaine numbing spray for wound cleaning. Use Orajel if no lidocaine spray is available
  6. Orajel for painful mouth sores from common viruses and also sore throats
  7. Rehydration solutions include Pedialyte, fruit cocktail liquid, flat ginger ale, and Gatorade. All items should be regular sugar, not sugar-free. 
  8. Thermometers (Oral and rectal for little kids)
  9. Decadron and Albuterol Inhalers for croup/asthma. (The newly-released Primatene Mist inhaler has the active ingredient Epinephrine. ERs use it for stridor (the high-pitched noise with respiratory distress during croup). Decadron may or may not be available from your pediatrician if your child frequently gets croup. All persons with asthma should have multiple containers of their rescue inhalers.
  10. Nosefrida/Bulb Syringe for congestion (I prefer the Nosefrida, utilizing your lung power and sitting outside the nose, therefore not causing nasal passage swelling)
  11. Fish Antibiotics (This is a serious undertaking and should only be pursued with the knowledge of a medical professional and medical books)

The Time to Prepare is Now

In an SHTF situation, we will not have full access to all the IV hydration and IV antibiotics that we desire. Ensuring our children have a robust immune system and vaccination status against items such as tetanus and pertussis (both bacteria) is your best wall of defense that you have control over before the event happens. 

Speak with your pediatrician about being prepared in the event of natural disasters in your area. If you live in Arizona and tell them you’re concerned about being ready for a hurricane, they will not take you seriously. Live in Montana? Mention blizzard concerns, and no one will even blink. Now is the time to prepare yourself with knowledge, educational material, and supplies. You never know when you will need them. 

Additional Resources:

SHTF Pediatric Infection Basics

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Denielle G.

Denielle is a Registered Nurse with over 15 years of experience in Pediatric Emergency and Neonatal ICU.  Her experiences in the Emergency Department and her previous experiences as an EMT have helped mold her expertise in Pediatrics. Her interest in preparedness comes naturally from her life experiences in the ER and the field.

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