It's never convenient when your child is sick, but as a parent or babysitter we can't avoid it forever.
When my kids are sick I know it's time to slow down and give them the attention they need.
With a little love, you can turn an anoying sickness into a bonding experience.
Here's what works for me.
- Give a sick child lots of love.
- Make sure they're comfortable.
- Keep up their fluid intake to prevent dehydration.
- Feed them healthy food.
- Allow for extra nap time.
- Provide low-energy entertainment.
- Clean everything to kill germs.
- Reduce physical contact to prevent getting sick.
- Follow parental instructions (if babysitting).
- And, call for help in an emergency.
Let's look at these in more detail.
1. Give sick children lots of love
Love is one of the best cures. Show sick kids how much you care, give lots of hugs and reassurance.
Nurturing and TLC helps to reduce anxiety and it makes you feel safe. Give a sick child lots of love and affection and it can actually help them get better, quicker .
And love promotes healthy brain development in babies .
Attend to their needs and take time to listen, they will appreciate your extra patience and understanding.
Keep them updated. If you need to leave the room for 5 minutes, tell them you’ll be back soon. It's really comforting to know your carergiver is close by.
Make them feel special, treat them like a grown-up and allow them to do more mature things such as drinking tea or using adult cutlery (with adult supervision of course).
And don’t forget...
Tell them you love them, it means a lot to actually say it.
2. Keep sick kids comfortable
To start with, get the house at the right temperature. If it's cold, put the heater on. If it's hot, open windows to let a breeze through. Fresh air is better than air conditioning when you're sick.
Make sure your little patient is dressed in soft and comfortable clothes, pyjamas are perfect.
Comfortable house shoes are good too and kids love wearing Mum or Dad's slippers for fun, so let them.
Now it's time to find a comfy place to hang out and rest, in bed is often the most comfortable but the couch has better entertainment options.
Build a pillow fort in the lounge room with cushions and blankets and let them camp out for the day.
Avoid outdoor play if it's cold or wet, this can make symptoms worse .
3. Offer plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
Always have a glass of water available and encourage drinking throughout the day.
Try milk for protein and nutrients, serve it warm for comfort or to aid sleep. Add a small amount of chocolate powder for an extra treat.
Green and black tea with antioxidants can alleviate flu symptoms, try cooling it down a little before serving just to be safe.
Sports drinks with electrolytes help to replace more than lost fluids and kids love them.
Mix drinks together and create magic healing potions to make drinking fun.
But most importantly...
Avoid sugary drinks like soft drink and fruit juice, these cause a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash that can be difficult to handle when you're sick.
4. Provide healthy comfort food that’s easy on the stomach
You can't beat the classic chicken and vegetable soup for colds, flu or fever with its vitamins, minerals, protein and plenty of liquid too .
Add garlic to meals for some extra cold-fighting power , .
Sugar-free icy poles can soothe a sore throat.
Honey can medicate an infected throat with its antibacterial properties, it also tastes yummy, but never give honey to a child below one-year-old due to the risk of poisoning caused by Clostridium Botulinum spores (Infant Botulism) , .
Yogurt can boost healthy gut bacteria which is especially useful after a course of antibiotics.
The B.R.A.T diet is gentle on the stomach for vomiting and diarrhea (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast) . And soups can help replace lost fluids.
For a sick child with a loss of appetite, try making eating fun by creating animals out of food or cut shapes into toast. I find the occasional treat helps tempt a fussy eater too.
5. Give sick children lots of quiet time and rest
Its normal for a sick child to sleep a lot. Their little body is tired because all their energy is fighting the sickness.
Allow for extra naps and let them rest as much as they need wherever they feel most comfortable, this may be on the couch or curled up with a blanket and pillows on the lounge room floor, that’s fine.
Keep the house quiet and calm so you don’t disturb them while they’re resting.
You’ll know when they start feeling better because their energy levels will slowly return.
6. Entertain sick kids with low-energy activities
Sick kids don’t have a lot of energy so easy activities are the best entertainment options, here are my favourites:
If your child is bedridden then reading books can be a great option. Bring over their favourite stories and let them pick which ones they want to hear. Try replacing the main character’s name with your child’s name for added fun and engagement.
Look through old family photo albums and share memories from the past. Tell stories from when you were young.
Sing songs and nursery rhymes and do the actions together. Make their teddy or favourite toy dance along and see if you can make them giggle.
If your child can get out of bed there are a lot more options...
I find easy collaborative games that are not competitive best for sick kids. Blocks and lego are brilliant, try building a hospital, a space station, or a zoo house.
Drawing and craft are great activities because you can create something beautiful together.
Try pretend play with toys, dolls, teddies or action figures. Teach kids about being sick by playing ‘Doctors’, check their toy’s temperature, give them pretend medicine and put them to bed to rest. This kind of play will help your child understand sickness and the recovery process .
For talkative kids try video calling friends or family, Grandma or Grandpa would love to hear from them!
Try to avoid too much screen time. Computer games and TV can make a child feel socially isolated which can prolong recovery .
7. Keep everything clean to stop the spread of germs
Cleanliness is one of the best defences against unwanted germs and sickness  (pdf).
I recommend these essential hygiene tips:
- Keep your child's face and hands clean with a warm washer.
- Wash your hands regularly with anti-bacterial soap or hand sanitiser.
- Empty the bin of any used tissues or rubbish regularly.
- Keep the air fresh and clean by opening windows (if it's not too cold outside).
- Change their clothes and sheets if they are dirty or sweaty.
- Wash their toys, particularly if other children will be playing with them.
8. Avoid getting sick!
Caring for a sick child often requires close contact but that doesn't mean you have to catch what they have.
Try these helpful tips to limit exposure to germs:
- Avoid skin contact, particularly around your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Wear a face mask if they're coughing or sneezing a lot. Draw a smile or teeth on it if you want to be funny.
- Wear gloves when cleaning any sick-related mess.
- And be sure to gargle at the slightest hint of a tender throat to prevent any viruses or germs from taking hold.
9. Follow instructions from parents when babysitting
Always ask parents for detailed instructions before starting a babysitting job with a sick child.
Both the sitter and parents should know what is expected of them and a line of communication is best kept open at all times.
Get permission before giving medication or treatment, and only use medicines that parents have directed you to use.
Let parents know if symptoms change, and reassure them that everything is under control.
Be prepared to take the child to the family Doctor if you are asked to.
Don't be afraid to call if you have a question or if you need help.
10. Call for help in an emergency
Always be safe, extra cautious and don't hesitate to call for help in an emergency situation.
Make sure you know the emergency number in your country:
Caring for sick children is easy when you know what to do.
Not all babysitters are willing to do this kind of work but if you do, you can charge more for babysitting sick kids, so it can be worth it for financial reasons.
It's also a rewarding experience because you have an opportunity to bond with the child and make a difference they will remember.
Caring for a sick child can make you both happy, that's something well worth doing.