A babysitter caring for a sick child

How to babysit a sick child

(10 worry-free tips)

It's never convenient when a child is sick, but as a babysitter you 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.

Download our Checklist for babysitting sick kids and read on for all the details.

1. Give sick children lots of love

Babysitter hugging a boy

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 [1].

Read our article: How babysitters can nurture children and learn eight steps that help to bring out their best.

And love promotes healthy brain development in babies [2].

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.

Try one of our recommended baby monitor apps so you know the moment your child wakes up.

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.

Oftentimes, a sick child can become irritable and may misbehave because they feel bad, but please be easy on them. Read our guide: How to babysit difficult children for some helpful strategies.

2. Keep sick kids comfortable

Comfy slippers

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.

Be careful when using a heater, be sure to read our fire safety tips for babysitters and prevent any accidents.

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].

3. Offer plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration

Drinks for sick kids

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

Food for sick kids

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 [4].

Add garlic to meals for some extra cold-fighting power [5], [6].

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) [7], [8].

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) [9]. 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

A sleeping child with his teddy bear

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.

Read our essential guide: how to get kids to bed when babysitting for useful tips for dealing with difficult sleepers.

Once kids are snoozing learn what to do after kids are alseep to make the most of your downtime.

6. Entertain sick kids with low-energy activities

Boy playing doctors with his teddy

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.

See our recommended books for babysitters for some of the best story ideas for all ages.

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 [10].

For talkative kids try video calling friends or family, Grandma or Grandpa would love to hear from them!

Importantly...

Try to avoid too much screen time. Computer games and TV can make a child feel socially isolated which can prolong recovery [11].

See our huge guide to entertaining kids, with over 200 activities you'll never run out of ideas.

7. Keep everything clean to stop the spread of germs

Cleaning to prevent germs

Cleanliness is one of the best defences against unwanted germs and sickness [12] (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!

Don't get 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.

Despite your best efforts there's still a chance that sometimes you will get sick, if so, can you still work? See our article Should you babysit when sick? for some helpful ways to manage this situation.

9. Follow instructions from parents when babysitting

Parental instructions

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

Calling for help

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:

Country Emergency number
Australia 000
New Zealand 111
United Kingdom 999
Canada 911
United States 911

Be sure to read our guide on How to be a safe babysitter for essential safety tips while looking after kids.

For career babysitters you may even consider getting insurance, see our article: Do babysitters need insurance to learn if this is right for you.

Conclusion

Babysitter with a happy child

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.

Read our babysitting rate guide and learn how to negotiate a babysitting pay rate so you can charge more for babysitting sick kids.

Nursing a sick child is also a rewarding experience because you have an opportunity to bond with the child and make a difference they will remember.

It can make you both happy, that's something well worth doing.

Babysitting Sick Kids (Checklist)

Babysitting Sick Kids checklist

Download and print out this checklist so you know exactly what to do if you're ever babysitting sick children.

Keep a copy in your babysitting binder so it's always with you.

Free Download
(babysitting-sick-kids-checklist.pdf 37kb)

Download our other babysitting checklists.

Should you babysit when sick? See our guide to learn when babysitting while sick is okay and when you should politely refuse.

Have you missed sleep during an overnight babysitting job? Read our guide to babysitting night shifts to learn the secrets of maintaining a healthy sleep routine while working through the night.

Written and Illustrated by:

Matthew Taylor

Matthew Taylor

Kidsit Founder, Editor, Illustrator, Web Developer, and father of three beautiful kids in Sydney, Australia.

Updated: 25 April 2018
First Published: 19 March 2018

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