Having a sick child is a stressful and upsetting experience. Your child may have a hard time feeling comfortable and in pain while you wonder if it's time to call the doctor. If you have a sick child at home, there are a few things you can do to make sure your child is comfortable and getting better.
Part 1 of 4: Making a sick child feel comfortable
Step 1. Provide emotional support
Being sick is uncomfortable and your child may be worried or upset about how he or she is feeling. It can help if you give your child some extra attention and care. For example, you can:
- Sit with your child.
- Read to your child from a book.
- Sing to your child.
- Hold your child's hand.
- Holding your baby in your arms.
Step 2. Raise your child or baby's head
A cough may get worse if your child lies flat on his or her back. To keep your child's head up, try placing a book or towel under the mattress of your baby's crib or under the legs on the head of the crib or bed.
You can also give your child an extra pillow or use a wedge-shaped pillow to help your child stay upright
Step 3. Turn on a humidifier
Dry air can make a cough or sore throat feel worse. Try using a humidifier or a fresh mist vaporizer to keep the air in your child's room moist. This can help reduce coughing, congestion, and discomfort.
- Make sure to change the water in your humidifier regularly.
- Wash the humidifier according to the manufacturer's instructions to prevent mold from growing in it.
Step 4. Provide a calm environment
Keep your home as quiet and peaceful as possible to make it easier for your child to rest. Stimulation from television or computers prevents sleep and your child needs as much rest as possible, so you may want to consider removing devices from your child's bedroom, or at least reducing your child's use.
Step 5. Keep your home at a comfortable temperature
Your child may feel hot or cold depending on the illness, so adjusting the temperature in your home can help your child feel more comfortable. Keeping your home between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius can help, but you can also adjust this temperature if your child is too cold or too hot.
For example, if your child complains that he or she is too cold, you can turn the heating up a bit. If your child complains that he or she is too hot, turn on an air conditioner or fan
Part 2 of 4: Feeding a sick child
Step 1. Give your child plenty of clear liquids
Dehydration can make things worse when your child is sick. Prevent dehydration in your child by making sure your child drinks regularly. Offer your child:
- ice creams
- ginger lemonade
- Diluted fruit juice
- Electrolyte-enriched drinks
Step 2. Provide foods that are easy to digest
Give your child nutritious foods that won't upset his stomach. The choice of food may depend on your child's symptoms. Good options are:
- salty crackers
- Apple sauce
- Cooked cereals
- Mashed potatoes
Step 3. Give your child chicken soup
While it won't cure your child, warm chicken soup helps with cold and flu symptoms by thinning mucus and acting as an anti-inflammatory. There are several recipes for making your own chicken soup, although many of the commercial varieties also work well.
Part 3 of 4: Treating a sick child at home
Step 1. Give your child plenty of rest
Encourage your child to go to sleep as often as he or she wants. Read your child a story or have your child listen to an audiobook to make it easier to fall asleep. Your child needs as much rest as he can get.
Step 2. Use over-the-counter medication in moderation
If you do decide to give medication, try to stick to one product, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, rather than alternating medications or giving combinations of medications. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about which medications may be appropriate for your child.
- Do not give ibuprofen to a child under one year of age.
- Do not give cold and cough medicines to a child under 4 years old, and preferably not until he is at least 8 years old. These drugs can cause life-threatening side effects and have not yet been shown to be very effective.
- Do not give acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin) to toddlers, children or teenagers because it can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye's syndrome.
Step 3. Encourage your child to gargle with warm salt water
Add a quarter teaspoon of table salt to 200 ml of lukewarm water. Have your child gargle and spit out the salt water when he's done. Gargling with salt water can help relieve a sore throat.
With younger children or with nasal congestion, you can also use salt water (saline) nasal drops or sprays. You can make your own saltwater spray or buy one at the drugstore. With babies you can use a nasal bulb to empty the nose after using the drops
Step 4. Keep your home free of irritants
Do not smoke near your child and avoid wearing very strong perfumes. Postpone activities such as painting or cleaning. The fumes can irritate your child's throat and lungs, making his illness worse.
Step 5. Air out your child's room
Open the windows in your child's room every now and then to keep the air fresh. Do this while your child is busy in the bathroom so he doesn't get cold. Provide your child with extra blankets if necessary.
Part 4 of 4: Seeing a doctor
Step 1. Determine if your child has the flu
Take symptoms of an infection with the flu virus seriously. It is a potentially dangerous disease that often develops suddenly. Contact your child's doctor if you think your child may have the flu, especially if your child is under 2 years old and has medical problems such as asthma. Symptoms of the flu include:
- High fever and/or chills
- Sore throat
- Running nose
- Body pain or muscle pain
- Fatigue and/or weakness
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting
Step 2. Take your child's temperature
Watch to see if your child has chills, a hot look, sweats, or feels very warm if you don't have a thermometer.
Step 3. Ask your child if he or she is in pain
Ask your child how much pain he or she is in and where the pain is. You could also apply gentle pressure to the area your child is complaining about to get an idea of the severity of the pain.
Step 4. Watch for signs of serious illness
Pay careful attention to any signs that your child should see a medical professional immediately. These are:
- Fever in a child younger than three months
- Severe headache or stiff neck
- Changes in breathing pattern, especially difficulty breathing
- Changes in skin color, such as looking very pale, reddish, or bluish
- Child who refuses to drink or stops urinating
- No tears when he cries
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Child is difficult to wake up or unresponsive
- Child is unusually calm and inactive
- Signs of extreme irritation or pain
- Pain or pressure in the chest or stomach
- Sudden or persistent dizziness
- Flu-like symptoms that get better at first, then worsen
Step 5. Visit your pharmacy
Talk to your pharmacy if you're not sure if your child needs to see a doctor. She or he can help determine if your child's symptoms need medical attention, and can advise on medication if needed.