How to Look After a Sick Toddler

By Lisa Hayden / September 21, 2020
How to Look After a Sick Toddler

How to Look After a Sick Toddler

Toddlers are a handful most of the time, and when you factor in illness, then it can be quite harrowing for parents. This is because they don’t sleep or eat well and are irritable, crying all the time. Common ailments are colds, flu and belly aches. To deal with your toddler during illness, here are a few tips on how to look after a sick toddler:

Make Your Child Feel Comfortable

Being sick is definitely not a comfortable feeling. When your child is sick, he might be feeling upset and restless about how he feels. He is probably feeling worried and scared. It is important that you provide him emotional support at this time aside from attending to his physical needs. Give your child some extra attention and spend time with him. You can show support by simply sitting with your child, reading a book to you child, singing to your child, or holding your child’s hand.

Elevating your child’s health might help in making him feel comfortable. Cough, asthma and other respiratory problems only feel worse when the affected person is lying flat on the bed. Give your child that extra elevation by providing him an extra pillow or a wedge pillow. You may also use a book or a rolled up towel under the pillow or mattress of your baby.​

Ensure Your Child is in a Quiet and Comfortable Environment

Try to keep your child’s environment quiet and peaceful so that he will be able to completely rest. Turning the television on or letting him play with computer games may only distract him from getting the rest that he needs so try to keep these at a minimum. Give him as much rest as he could and encourage him to sleep as often as he would like. Reading to your child or singing to him may help him to fall asleep faster.

Make him feel more comfortable by keeping the room airy while avoiding becoming draughty. Turn on your humidifier or your mist vaporizer to keep some moisture in the air. Cough and sore throats can feel worse in dry air. Keeping the air moist will minimize coughing and discomfort. Regularly change the water in the humidifier to prevent unwanted mold growth. Also, air out your child’s room once in a while to keep the air circulating and fresh. Keep his room free of irritants such as strong smelling perfumes or smoke. Avoid exposing him to fumes that can only further irritate his throat and lungs.​

Another tip is to maintain your home’s temperature at a comfortable range. Adjust the temperature in your child’s room according to how his illness is affecting him. He may be feeling hot or cold, depending on what type of illness he is suffering from. A temperature range of 65 to 70 degrees is usually a comfortable range but you may adjust accordingly.

Monitor Their Temperature

Your baby’s temperature can fluctuate drastically within hours. When they are sick, it is necessary to monitor your child’s temperature every 2 – 4 hours. If they are suffering from extremely high temperatures such as over 104 degrees, then you need to make frequent checks like after every half hour. If they are sleeping, you don’t have to wake them up unnecessarily, just feel their foreheads and body, and if they are too hot then you can measure their temperature. If not, let them rest.

Low grade fevers can be left to the body to fight off, but high fevers need medication. Some good examples are ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Ensure that you consult your doctor, before using any fever medication.

Exercise Caution with Over-the Counter Medicines

Before giving your child any form of medication, be sure that your child is not allergic to it. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist regarding which medications are safe and appropriate to give to your child. Do not give your child cocktail medications, stick to one kind of product. If your baby is under 6 months of age, do not give him ibuprofen. Children under 4 years of age should not be given cough and cold medicines as these medicines may potentially cause serious side effects. Giving aspirin to children is also not recommended.

For sore throats, you may let your child gargle some water in which salt has been dissolved. To prepare warm salt water, dissolve one fourth of teaspoon of table salt in about 8 ounces of warm water. Ask your child to gargle the solution and spit the salt water out. Salt water solution is also useful in relieving nasal congestion. You may apply it in the form of drops or sprays in younger children.​

Fluids and Food

Sick children tend to get dehydrated easily, especially when they are running a fever. Dehydration is another problem you wouldn’t want to deal with so try to avoid it by giving your child a lot of clear liquids. You need to feed them drinks frequently to help them deal with the fever. You may offer them water, ginger ale, ice pops, diluted fruit juice or electrolyte-enhanced beverages.

Generally, sick toddlers are averse to eating. They are more picky than usual, but you cannot let them skip meals. Their body needs a lot of nutrition to fight off the illness. Find ways of including nutritious food in their diet, and a good way of incorporating fluid into the diet is by serving tasty soups and juices. Try feeding your sick child chicken soups. Warm chicken soup has been a staple comfort food for ages. It can provide symptom relief to colds and flu. Give your child fruit juices or fruit smoothies or try incorporating vitamin rich fruits such as mangoes in milk smoothies. Serve them food that is easy to swallow and easy to digest. Don’t let them eat snacks that may only serve to upset their stomach. Some other good snack options to give him include salty crackers, applesauce, bananas, mashed potatos, cooked cereals, and toast.​

Clogged Sinuses

If your child is suffering from a cold, it may be hard to keep blowing their nose. So he/she will just let it clog up and breathe through the nose. You can help, by squirting saline solution into the nostrils a few times a day. Use a humidifier in the room where they spend their time. If they have bruised nostrils from blowing their nose too much apply a soothing petroleum jelly on it regularly.

Talk to Them

Toddlers are relatively new at getting ill, so they may feel awful. They don’t know what’s happening to them. You can make it better by explaining what is happening, and the symptoms they are experiencing. You may also tell them how long it extends for, so they know it is a temporary problem. Emphasize on the solutions such as proper rest eating and drinking as well as taking medication. You may also read them stories from age appropriate books showing characters being ill and getting well. This will help comfort them.

Fun Activities

Don’t just stick your baby in bed as it will make the experience worse. Engage them in fun activities such as jigsaw puzzles, and fun games around the home that will destruct them from their misery. Provide emotional support by hugging them and generally being there, so that they are not overwhelmed by illness or fever.

These are just a few pointers to follow when looking after an ailing toddler. As a parent, you should be on the lookout for signs of a serious illness. Below is a list of symptoms that may indicate your child might be suffering from a serious illness.

  • Determine if your child has the flu. Getting the influenza virus is a very potentially dangerous illness so you must take it symptoms of infection very seriously. As soon as you suspect your child may have the flu, contact your doctor immediately especially when your child is with asthma or is below 2 years of age. Here are the symptoms of the flu that you should watch out for:
    • Cough
    • High fever
    • Chills
    • Runny nose
    • Sore throat
    • Muscle aches
    • Headaches
    • Weakness or tiredness
    • Diarrhea
    • Vomiting
  • Your child may need to see a doctor immediately if he shows these signs of serious illness:
    • Severe headache
    • Stiff neck
    • Fever in an infant who is under 3 months of age
    • Difficulty in breathing or change in breathing pattern
    • Change in skin color (pale, reddish, bluish)
    • Your child turns away fluid or refuses to urinate
    • There are no tears when your baby cries
    • Severe and/or persistent vomiting
    • Unresponsiveness, unusually quiet or inactive
    • Difficulty in waking the child up
    • The child complains of extreme pain
    • There is pain in your child’s chest or stomach area
    • Prolonged or sudden dizziness
    • Disorientation
    • When flu-like symptoms show improvement and then suddenly get worse

Medical help for a child who is ill

If you are unsure about the kind of medical attention your child might need, you may always pay your local pharmacist a visit. He or she can help identify whether your child’s symptoms will require you to take your child to the doctor. He or she may also be able to advice you on the appropriate medications. If you have access, you may also opt to call your doctor and seek his advice on how urgent it is to take your child to go see him.

How to make taking medicine easier for your child:

  • Show positivity. Put on a happy face when you are giving him his medicine. Make him feel that taking medication is an enjoyable activity. Don’t be anxious yourself as kids can easily pick up negativity.
  • Avoid the tastebuds. Once your child detects the usual bitter taste of the medicine, he might want to spit it out. You can try avoiding the tastebuds by using a syringe or a dropper to gently squirt the medicine towards the back of your child’s mouth. This way he won’t detect the bitter taste and swallow the medication.
  • Mask the taste. Instead of avoiding the tastebuds, you may disguise the taste of the medicine. You may request your local pharmacist to add flavors to your child’s medication. Agreeable flavors such as chocolate or fruit flavors may be used.
  • Give him the feeling of being in control. You may empower your child by giving him a choice on how to take a medicine. Ask him if he wants to drink the medicine from a cup or from a dropper. Ask him when he’d like to take his medicine or what flavor he’d like the medicine to come in.
  • Have your child suck on some ice chips before giving him his medicine. This will numb your child’s taste buds which can aid in swallowing the medication easier.
  • When dealing with eyedrops, it might be helpful to warm the medicine first by holding it between your hands for about three minutes. This will minimize squirming from your child when you drop the medicine on his eyes.
  • Be honest with your toddler. Don’t pretend that the medicine will taste delicious if it is going to be actually bitter. Explain to them that while they may not enjoy taking it, it will help them get better. Tell them that the quicker they get better, the quicker they would be able to play and feel better again.
  • Play pretend games. You can let them play doctor to their stuffed toy and pretend to give it medicine before letting your child take his medicine himself.
  • You can always ask for your doctor’s assistance. Maybe he can prescribe a chewable tablet which your child may prefer over syrups or tailor a regimen which would require less instances of taking medication.

Before leaving the doctor’s office, be sure that you have thoroughly discussed the prescribed medication. Ask all the questions you might have. Ask what the drug is and what it’s for. Be sure you are clear on how much to take and what time of day the medication should be taken. Ask what side effects to watch out for and what to do when your child misses a dose. Double check the medication once you have picked it up from the pharmacy.


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