Monday, 1 March 2010

When Your Child is Unwell: 10 Tips

Last week ended up being a tiring one with my son suffering from a bad cough, cold and a bit of a fever for several days. He was thoroughly miserable and you could tell it hurt his throat every time he coughed and he must have got sick of me wiping his constantly runny nose. We had a couple of disturbed nights as a result too and daytime naps were all over the place. It's a common enough scenario for anyone with young children, it's upsetting to see them suffering and can make for long tiring days for the parent or person looking after them.

I've written before about colds and ways to try to avoid catching them and how to deal with them if you do catch one. I think my son had more than just a cold this time round though and it made me think about ways to deal with looking after a sick child when they are not fit for anything, have  no desire to play, are too ill to take out to usual activities or to mix with friends and just getting through a day can feel like a bit of a struggle. These are some of the things that helped my son and I get through a tough week and some other ideas I had for dealing with a child who's unwell:

(1) Be flexible. Chances are your usual routine will be unsettled when your child's ill. Follow their lead and if it seems like they want a snack at a time you wouldn't usually give one, let them have something. If they seem like they want to sleep at a different time to when they take their nap, lay them down. They'll soon bounce back to the regular routine once they are feeling back to normal.

(2) Fresh air. This depends to an extent how sick the child is but usually you can get them out for a walk at some point. As long as they are well wrapped up for the weather, it can do you both the world of good to have a walk somewhere. I found my son in much better spirits whenever we returned from a walk out in the fresh air.

(3) Keep hydrated. Both of you should drink plenty of water throughout the day.

(4) Do things differently. Accept that when your child is feeling under the weather, they won't want to do what they normally do or play what they usually play. Try doing something with them in a different room of the house or show them something new that might bring a smile to their face. My son seemed brighter when we were in the kitchen or in our bedroom, rather than in his usual play area in the living room.

(5) Have some company. Whilst my son was too ill to go to a playgroup or to a friend's house to play, I did still get him out in the pushchair to the park and was able to meet up with some mummy friends for a bit of a chat. It can be a good boost to your mood to see friends or to have a phone conversation with a friend.

(6) Rest when they rest. I hadn't done this since my son was a newborn but decided to have a lie-down when he napped during the day and it really helped. I was refreshed when he woke up and able to give him all the energy and comfort he needed.

(7) Be patient. You might feel exhausted by their crying, clingyness or complaining but it must be pretty frustrating for them to feel unwell and not be able to do anything about it and maybe not be able to communicate what's wrong to a parent if they are very young. If you're feeling fraught, take a moment for some deep breaths,  roll back your shoulders and gently roll your neck from side to side to regain a sense of calm and to relax your body.

(8) Take a break. This isn't always possible but if you have a friend or family member who can come and relieve you for a while, it'll do you the world of good to have a little 'time off'. My husband was able to come home a bit earlier than usual on a couple of evenings and it brightened up the day for both my son and I!

(9) Easy eating. Make life easy for them and give them foods they like and that are easy to eat and comforting to them. Don't worry if they seem off their food. They'll soon get their appetite back once they are feeling well again.

(10) Lots of love. Extra hugs and attention are important to provide reassurance when your little one is feeling under the weather. Let them know you're doing everything you can to make them feel as happy as possible and to speed their recovery.

What works for you when your child is ill? Do you have other tips to share?
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  1. Thanks for this. I had a poorly one last week, and didn't know what to do with him. So hard when they can't tell you what is wrong. Seems much better now, and I'll follow your tips next time.

  2. Great advice. It is worrying when your child's ill and you just wish you could wave a magic wand to make them better (calpol usually does the trick!).

    I am a firm believer in fresh air. We live on a farm in the middle of nowhere and if any of us get colds we get outside and breathe in the fresh air.

    CJ xx

  3. Handpicked Collection - you're right about it being so hard when they can't tell you what's wrong. Glad to hear your son is all better now :-)

    CJ - Calpol does usually help, especially at night....You're lucky to have 'real' fresh air just right outside!

  4. Be flexible is my favourtie tip... we've had our share of unusual naps and dry toast for tea this winter. Hope your boy is better now.


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