Becoming a new parent can be overwhelming in many ways.  You have a new little baby to take care of while at the same time cycling between feelings of exhaustion, excitement, and nervousness.  If you are like myself and like most parents, you want to do the best job possible. 

Advice is usually easy to come by, good or bad.  We seek advice on everything from discipline, whether to breast feed or bottle feed, and which brand of diapers to buy.

One thing that can easily be very overwhelming, especially to new parents, is taking care of your children when they are sick.  New parents are easily overwhelmed, and advice from friends and family may not always be the best source.  You can hear everything from great grandma saying rub whiskey on the baby's teeth when they are fussy, to others who believe all medication if harmful.

Here is a list of medications every new parent should have on hand and be familiar with.  These medications can make those times of sickness as comfortable as possible for you and for your baby.

1.  Acetaminophen (Tylenol(R))

Acetaminophen, most commonly referred to by the brand name Tylenol, is a good option for treating minor pain or as a fever reducer.  It is available as a liquid with a dropper bottle to make it easy to give to your child.  Be sure to determine the appropriate amount to give your child each time, based on their age and weight.  If the age and weight categories do not match, choose the dose based on weight.  If your child is under two consult your pediatrician to determine how much medication to give. 

Accidental overdose may occur if you do not carefully determine the appropriate dose and how to measure it for your child.  Take time to figure this out ahead of time, as well as look at the measuring device so that you are familiar with it.  Don't wait until your child wakes up crying at 2am to figure this out.

Common uses: fever, teething pain, sinus cold, sore throat

2.  Ibuprofen (Motrin(R), Advil(R))

A second medication you should keep on hand is ibuprofen.  This is available as a few different brands and is also available as a generic product.  Ibuprofen is similar to acetaminophen as far as what it's used for.  Like acetaminophen it is used for minor pain and as a fever reducer.  There is a difference in how each is dosed, so do take time to determine the proper dose ahead of time, depending on your child's weight.  Consult your pediatrician if you child is under two years of age, to determine the appropriate dose. 

Common uses: fever, teething pain, sinus cold, sore throat

Ibuprofen will sometimes be recommended over acetaminophen for a very high fever.  Again, you should consult your pediatrician on this.  It can also be helpful to alternate acetaminophen and ibuprofen while your child is sick, so that they are receiving a different medication each time.  This can help prevent your child from receiving too much of one medication, while still maintaining adequate fever or pain control.  In my experience, ibuprofen is often more effective at reducing fever and tends to work more quickly.

3.  Saline nasal drops (Little Noses(R))

Something so little, like saline in a bottle, can be extremely effective at helping your child.  This can often be used as a saline spray, if the bottle is held upright, or as a saline drop, if the bottle is inverted.  This will be your's and your baby's best friend during the time when he or she has a head cold.  Congested and or runny sinuses can hinder you baby's ability to feed and make them that much more cranky.  For a baby with congested sinuses, put a few drops of saline in each nostril a few minutes prior to feeding.  After a few minutes use a nasal bulb (a nose sucker), to remove the saline and the congestion it has freed up and just helped you to remove.  This can be much more effective than just a nasal bulb on its own.  It can also be helpful to keep your baby's nose and sinuses moist while they have a cold and while you are wiping their nose frequently. 

4.  Simethicone

Simethicone is an anti-gas medication marketed in several forms and by various manufacturers.  This can be very helpful for those babies who tend to be cranky after meals and before bed.  This medication can help provide relief to gas pain associated with meals or after a feeding.  This is a simple thing that could provide a lot of relief.  Again, it is important to follow the recommended dosing for your child's age and weight.  

5.  Zinc Oxide (Desitin(R))

Most babies get diaper rash at some time.  Either from wet diapers, or when they a teething, or if they eat too many oranges.  Whatever the cause, it can be irritating and uncomfortable to your baby.  Providing a barrier can help treat and prevent the diaper rash.  Using zinc oxide, or Desitin, for example can help provide a barrier while also providing some relief to your baby.  Zinc oxide has a nice "cooling" sensation and can provide some pain relief to painful diaper rash.  You can apply this with each diaper change to help treat diaper rash.  Do consult your pediatrician though, if the rash does not improve after a few days or if it gets worse. 

Just a quick note on some other helpful tools. 

A cool mist humidifier is a great thing to have on hand.  It can provide a lot of relief to your baby when she has a cold or minor respiratory problems.  Running it over night can help with sinus congestion and help your baby to breathe more easily, making for a more restful night for you and your baby.

A good thermometer is another helpful device.  Although it is not a medication, it is necessary to determine if medicine is needed to treat a fever.  I recommended an in ear thermometer that reads in less than ten seconds.  Getting your baby to hold still for much longer than that will not be easy.  Also, keep a good standard thermometer around to check the temperature under the arm or rectally if needed to confirm a temp if you are unsure of the in ear or unable to use the in ear thermometer.

There are some medications you can buy over the counter that are not safe for your baby.  The younger your child is the less medications they can generally take.  For example, an infant or young child should not be given cold products containing medications such as dextromethorphan.  Always consult your pediatrician or pharmacist before giving your child any medication. 

One last thing:  This is just a guide for new parents.  Always follow the advice of your pediatrician and seek consultation prior to giving any new medication.  If your child appears to get worse or does not get better, always seek professional medical attention.