It starts with a cough, then a sniffle, then suddenly your child is down with a full-blown cold. It’s no fun seeing your little one sick and unhappy, but there are a few small ways to soothe a sick toddler or preschooler.
1. Throw out the rules, just for a day
While most adults want to collapse in bed when ill, kids can be a bit more unpredictable – so let your child set the pace for the day. Maybe they want to lie on the couch, or maybe they feel well enough to play with their toys for a bit. Either way, keep a close eye on them, and let them rest when they feel they need it.
Sleep routines might go out the window, and that’s ok too. Just make sure you keep any fevers under control, and you can also try over-the counter preparations for kids which may help ease cough and cold symptoms, but check with your pharmacist first.
2. Manage the medicine
It can sometimes be difficult administering antibiotics or medication to sick kids. If they find it all too icky, you could try mixing medications into a small amount of food – keep the portion small to ensure that the whole dose is taken, and always check with your pharmacist first that the efficacy of the medication won’t be affected by mixing it with food. It’s also worth keeping track of your doses, as often the day can slip by and before you know it, you’ve forgotten when the next dose is due.
3. Help with sniffles
There’s a reason why young children seem to have perpetually runny noses – they simply get colds far more often than adults. While healthy adults usually have two to four colds a year, children can catch as many as eight to 12. On top of that, the poor things haven’t yet figured out how to blow their nose properly, and tend to suffer from a lot of congestion when they’re sick.
A humidifier might help them breathe more easily. You could also try a few squirts of saline solution in the nose. And while the leading medicated cough, cold and flu medicines are not recommended for children under six, there are some herbal cold and flu liquids which may help ease symptoms and help reduce the duration and severity of symptoms as well as boost immunity. Either way, the tissue box will be your best friend for a few days.
4. Feed colds and fevers
The old wives’ tale of ‘starving a cold and feeding a fever’ is only partly true. The reality is, children need to maintain their fluids and nutritional intake during a cold and a fever, so try to serve up foods that are high in vitamins and water content, like fruit or chicken soup.
Kids can get finniky with food when they’re sick, so if they’re reluctant to eat, don’t force it, simply tailor meals to the things they love (banana bread and juice anyone?) If your child is suffering from diarrhoea or vomiting, you can also give them rehydration drinks or iceblocks. If, however, they appear to be getting dehydrated, be sure to call your doctor.
5. Clear the schedule
While we can only hope it’s a 24-hour bug, often children’s colds and flus can drag on for days or weeks. If possible, look for ways to clear your schedule, and try not to be too ambitious about getting your child back to daycare, school or other activities too soon. The longer they have to recover at home, the better. Plus, waiting it out can help avoid nasty relapses.
6. Stay close
Young children feel so helpless when they’re sick. The best thing you can do is stay close to them throughout the day, and lots of extra cuddles go a long way too. Sick days can be a good time to snuggle up on the couch with some books. Or you could try some low-key activities like drawing or puzzles. Keep reassuring your little one that things will get better tomorrow.