A girl covers her face - the featured image for the article Make Sick Kids Happy Kids Ten tips for tending to sick toddlers

Making Sick Kids Happy Kids: 10 Tips for Tending to a Sick Toddler

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By Amanda Thielen

My daughter, Em rang in the New Year with a nasty cold that, at the time of writing this, we are still fighting. Like many parents, watching my kid suffer through an illness makes me wish I could take her place. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way. We’ve probably come closer as a society to figuring out teleportation than discovering a cure for the common cold. We can’t make it go away, but we can make it a bit less miserable for them. Not only can you use these tips for sick kids but I have used a few of them for myself when I am fighting a nasty cold.

Just a reminder, these are personal remedies we use to relieve our daughter’s discomfort and are not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment.

(Click this link to download the list as a PDF to print and hang on your fridge)

  1. Vapor Rub

The first time Em got sick, my mother-in-law told me to put Vicks on her feet along with her chest and under her nose. I thought it was kind of weird, but it seemed to work. I’ve found that if their skin is really chapped from blowing their nose it really helps to dab a little Vaseline on before applying the vapor rub. There may not be any scientific research out there on whether applying vapor rub to the bottom of feet during a cold helps relieve symptoms, but what science hasn’t told me real life experience has.

  1. Turn your bathroom into a sauna

This can turn into a super-fun experience for kids (although Em was a bit scared the first time we tried it because the steam looks like smoke.) Simply put the plug into your tub, run the shower super hot and add some eucalyptus oil. Make sure any bathroom vents are shut and shove some towels in the crack under the door to really steam it up. Em likes it when we hold her up in the air high enough to see over the shower (and that’s where most of the steam is at.) I would advise using some caution as Em has gotten curious a few times and reached straight for the hot water.

  1. Pedialyte Popsicles

If a sore throat or stomach is keeping your kid from getting the hydration they need, Pedialyte popsicles may be the solution you’ve been looking for. These will give the numbing effect of traditional popsicles but are also infused with tons of electrolytes and do a better job of hydrating.

  1. Prop up their head at bedtime

If your child is congested, this will definitely help. This tip dates back to my own childhood, as my parents used it with me. Take a big pillow and place it underneath (or replace) your child’s pillow. Having their head elevated will ease the congestion and help them get a good night sleep.

  1. Consider Co-Sleeping

When your kid is sick, it is likely that neither they nor you are getting much sleep. Between asking for a drink, needing medicine, losing their nook, and wanting some snuggles; it may be helpful to let them sleep in your bed (just for a few nights) when they come down with something. You’ll be right there if they need anything, and odds are, you’ll both get more sleep.

  1. Ditch routine meal times

Em is a picky and stubborn eater to begin with, so when she gets sick it’s nearly impossible to get her to eat anything. While we’ve been trying really hard to get her to stick to routine meal times (and healthy eating options), when she’s not feeling well we throw the routine out the window and give her a bit more liberty in choosing what she eats. I was a little worried at how much dairy she was eating; I’ve heard my entire life that eating dairy can make a cold worse. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s a myth! “Milk doesn’t cause your body to make more phlegm. In fact, frozen dairy products can soothe a sore throat and provide calories when you otherwise may not eat” (Steckelberg, 2016). After reading that, we broke out the ice cream!

  1. Talk about it

Kids might not fully understand the concept of being sick, so it might be smart to sit down and have a short and simple chat. Explain that they are not feeling well because they are sick, but that their body has ninjas (feel free to get more creative here) that are fighting their sickness and it will go away. It might also help to pretend that their doll is sick and take care of it together. Read some books about being sick and going to the doctor, and try to make things like taking their temperature fun by letting them take yours first.

  1. Snuggle

When Em gets sick she immediately reverts from two going on twenty to acting like a newborn that wants to crawl in my arms and stay there forever. Most kids need extra cuddles and physical affection while sick; take the opportunity to bond with your child by popping in a movie, grabbing a blanket and relaxing (enjoy it, because pretty soon they actually will be twenty.)

  1. Over-the-counter medicine

We try to use acetaminophen and ibuprofen sparingly, but we pull it out when she has a fever or seems really miserable. I didn’t know until recently that you can alternate using the two when necessary; definitely check with your doctor first, as this came as a recommendation from Em’s doctor for specific symptoms.

  1. Let them take the lead

When Em is sick, we try to be a bit more laid back on the rules and amp it up when it comes to letting her choose activities. I’ve been surprised at how much energy she has when she’s sick, and at first was hesitant to let her be so active when she was feeling so crappy. As long as they don’t have a high fever, it may be good to let them run around a bit (if they’re feeling up to it).

(Click this link to download the list as a PDF to print and hang on your fridge)

Is there a remedy you use that’s been in your family for generations? Maybe you have a strategy that you’ve figured out on your own. You can never have enough tricks up your sleeve to keep your kid comforted when sick, and would love to keep my list going with your ideas!

About the Author

Amanda Thielen

Amanda is a stay-at-home mom and graduate student studying to become a school counselor. She has a two-year-old daughter, and is interested in early childhood development, education, and psychology. When she’s not busy being a wife, mom, student, and writer, she has fun biking, trying new restaurants, and sitting down to watch Netflix with her husband. However, she has the most fun when discovering and exploring the world through her toddler’s eyes.

Featured image by Caleb Woods via Unsplash.

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