Sickness and children: 5 dos and don’ts from a mum’s frontline

Sickness and children

It’s been a lonnng winter of a myriad of sicknesses. In fact, in this household it’s been hard to remember the windows of good health. Sickness and children – there is nothing more soul destroying and heart wrenching then seeing your little one/s drowning in illness and boy does it feel like you’re sucked into a black whole of illness when they really get it – with days and days just disappearing into a sickness black hole!

However, the plus side of this is that after 20 months, I finally feel like I’ve been able to work out a sickness strategy and survival guide. Yup it only took me 20 months! Of course, all children are different, but sometimes in those moments of uncertainty, it can be hugely helpful and comforting to hear what works for others during those tiring bouts of sickness.

Here are my 5 sickness and children dos and don’ts to survive those sick times!


  1. Do wear, wear, wear. Sick babies and toddlers don’t want to lie around in bed and feel sorry for themselves like we do – they want to be carried and cuddled and feel sorry for themselves! Keep them close to you (and keep the ship running) by wearing them on a carrier as much as possible while they’re thick in the throws of being ill. This will leave everyone happier (if not one person with a back ache!) during their illness.
  1. Do give them Calpol or Ibuprofen. Now I’m not one to dish out meds willy nilly but imagine these poor little tykes have no real way of telling us just how rotten they feel..and we only really know until we get what they had! Don’t feel that such meds are only reserved for a fever – they are also important in lessening other aches, pains and symptoms associated with illness.
  1. Do alternate medicines in more fully blown cases – if what you have administered doesn’t take them through to the next dose this is perfectly acceptable seeing as different medicines work on the body in different ways…you can find out more about how to safely alternate Calpol and Ibuprofen here.
  1. Do make a trip to the doctor for peace of mind, especially if they are running a fever. Although in many cases, a trip to the doctor will see you leaving empty handed after a routine check, if in doubt, don’t be reluctant about taking them along just to hear that he/she will be ok.  In the UK, there is a massive culture of not prescribing antibiotics for a virus, but there’s no harm in getting a second opinion to put your mind at peace.
  1. Do know that illnesses can seem never ending during the cold and flu season. It can be hugely disconcerting when your child seems to be picking up something different every other week…it almost makes you never want to take them to a playgroup ever again!  But know that this is their way of building up their immune system, which compared to ours is extremely immature.


  1. Don’t expect them to be able to fall asleep for naps unassisted. Even the best self settler is likely to need some extra comfort at nap time, when they can feel so unbelievably grotty that despite being totally knackered, they can’t settle down for a nap. I find that caressing my little one’s head on repeat works wonders (most, but not all, of the time).
  1. Don’t freak out if they are not eating well or anything at all for a few days. The name of the game here is fluids, and so long as you can keep them hydrated, their food intake WILL bounce back once they have made a recovery. When they are ready to eat again (don’t force it!), offer them foods you know they absolutely love and never turn down. If they are really miserable and don’t even feel like drinking, then feeding them fluids via one of those syringes that comes with Calpol etc can work wonders.
  1. Don’t (or at least try not to ) freak out about their generally lethargic state. In most cases, a fever will knock them for six but so long as you are doing your best to keep their temperature down, then they should bounce back to their own self once the sickness has passed. But I’m with you – it is horrible and often rather frightening to see them looking so helpless.
  1. Don’t feel bad about snuggling up in front of the TV with them for some age appropriate watching for more than their usual allocated amount of time. Although there are other sick day activities (blog post coming soon), it can be terribly hard to fill so many hours when they really don’t feel like doing much else apart fro blobbing in front of the TV – know that they will resume their normal active life thereafter, and you are not being a bad parent!
  1. Don’t try to keep them on a routine – let them sleep when they want, as many times a day as they want, and where they want. The same applies to food – let them eat when they are hungry (if at all) and whatever they feel like even if is cereal for dinner and rice for breakfast just go with it –  sleeping and eating in any way when they are ill is a bonus and all good healing for their body. Speaking of which, get your own mindset into “sickness” mode – know there will be night duty, early wakings and general tiredness on your side. Go back to early bedtime for you and napping when they nap if need be or at all possible. In the same vein, don’t be afraid to put them to bed early – with broken sleep, early risings and the need to recuperate, they could do with an extra head start and it’s unlikely to effect wake times which are probably going to take a hit in any case.

At the end of the day, the old adage “Mother knows best” prevails when it comes to sickness and children. Trust your instincts and know you are doing the best you can! Have you got some sickness strategy do’s and don’ts you’d like to share?

bathroom refresh



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