Need a reference of things to do when the kids are sick? Make caring for a sick child much easier with this helpful checklist.
It always happened out of the blue. I’d have my next day planned with activities to do with the kids, when… bam! One of them would wake up with a fever, vomit, or diarrhea.
And no matter how often this would happen, my mind would still go blank. I’d vaguely recall the best practices I vowed to remember should the kids get sick again. I’d forget what food I should offer or the remedies we had on hand.
And that’s just with the kids. We’ve also dealt with cleaning up the messes and running out of sanitizing wipes or quarters to wash their soiled sheets. No wonder sick days are a hassle.
Caring for a sick child
If you can relate, read on.
Tired of forgetting what to do, I made a guide to jog my memory the next time it would happen. I’ve used this list to run through the tasks I need to cover, making sure I don’t leave anything out.
Of course, reach out to your doctor first once you realize your child is sick. But should a dreaded sickness arise, here are a few things you can do to help you along:
1. Offer appropriate medicines and remedies
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I often hold out on medicine as long as possible, but sometimes it’s necessary. Depending on your child’s sickness, consider offering the following remedies:
- Medicine to reduce fever and pain. Over-the-counter medicine won’t “cure” her fever—it only reduces it so she can feel more comfortable. If the fever is still trying to fight something off, it’ll likely return once the medicine wears off. But sometimes you need it to help her feel more rested or have less pain.
- Cough medicine or honey for coughing. My kids’ pediatrician didn’t prescribe cough or cold medicine, as it hasn’t been proven to work consistently. That said, my kids felt better when the syrup coated their throats. I’ve also had success giving them a spoonful of honey. (I only offered honey once they were a year or older, as honey isn’t safe for infants.)
- Vicks VapoRub for congestion. Before they napped or slept, I’d rub Vicks VapoRub on their chests and backs to help with congestion. For kids two and under, there’s also a Vicks BabyRub version.
- A humidifier for stuffed noses. Keep a humidifier handy when your child has trouble breathing or has a dry nose. Humidifiers can make a room moist, so leave a window or door open to avoid mildew, get one with an automatic timer, or turn it off before you head to bed.
- Saline spray. For extra dry and crusty noses, a saline spray can help moisten the area as well.
Free printables: Regardless of which medicines or remedies you offer, track how much you give and how often. Don’t rely on memory as it’s too easy to forget. Plus, an official tracking system will avoid mix ups among adults, whether with your partner or caregiver.
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2. Monitor your child’s temperature
A fever usually indicates the body’s attempts to fight off an infection or sickness and should always be monitored. Even if you think the temperature is low, it’s a good idea to keep track of how it progresses during the day and night.
Then, find out from your doctor when she recommends you bring your child in for a fever. This depends on his age and other symptoms he may have, so your doctor will know best when it’s time to bring him in. For instance, a low-grade fever for a newborn can be more alarming than it is for a five-year-old.
I also suggest taking his temperature each time you offer medicine. Since you’re already tracking the dosages, you can also track the progress of his temperature.
3. Sanitize your home
Germs travel fast. A few holidays ago, each member of my family caught and passed the stomach flu on to one another over the span of a few days. It was not pretty.
I learned that the easiest ways to avoid spreading germs is to immediately sanitize all the areas that may have been infected. The fewer germs, the less contamination for other family members. Generally, this means:
- Using sanitizing wipes to clean toilets, counter tops and bathroom floors. I get a bulk pack of Clorox Wipes and keep these throughout our home.
- Spraying the carpet to clean any soiled areas. My husband and I swear by Folex.
- Scrubbing the bathtub, especially if you bathed your soiled child after he got messy. I love Mrs. Meyers powder cleaner.
- Washing their soiled clothes, sheets, blankets, pillows, pillowcases and stuffed animals right away.
- Wiping up after any sneezes, coughs, or spit up.
4. Wash your hands often
As much as we don’t think we don’t touch our noses, eyes, or mouth, you know we do. The best way to avoid spreading germs then is to keep your hands clean. Each time you clean after your child or scrub down a part of your house, wash your hands thoroughly.
Another option is to stock up on hand sanitizer and keep these around the house where a sink isn’t nearby. Better to at least sanitize your hands for those times you don’t feel inclined to head to the nearest sink.
5. Keep your child comfortable
When you’re the person who’s not sick, it’s easy to overlook how terrible it feels to be sick. It didn’t dawn on me for the longest time that the stomach flu made my kids feel nauseous, or that they felt extra groggy because of a cold. Only until I ended up falling sick did I realize how terrible they must’ve felt.
Keep your child comfortable. This might mean carrying her around slowly instead of swiveling left and right. She might feel nauseous and dizzy with how quickly you move. Imagine your first trimester and how nauseous you felt—that’s how she feels right now.
You might also want to keep her in simple clothes. Not only will it be a pain to wash complicated, fancy clothes, she’ll also feel more comfortable. Think stretch pants with no tight elastics, or regular t-shirts over buttoned ones.
6. Give water depending on your child’s ailments
The biggest risk with the vomiting and diarrhea typical of the stomach flu is dehydration. That said, it also doesn’t mean you should offer your child cup after cup of water. I made this mistake, which only led to my child vomiting even more water.
Instead, for stomach bugs, offer sips of water throughout the day. Offer enough water to keep her from dehydrating, but in an amount small enough that her body keeps it down.
If she has a cold or a cough without vomiting or diarrhea, then offer plenty of water. As with adults, the best remedies for a common cold is plenty of rest and water.
I found the best way to encourage my kids to drink water is by allowing them to carry a sippy cup throughout the day. They were more willing to drink out of it—and frequently too—than a regular water cup.
You may even want to offer a sippy cup of water at night. If your child is old enough to reach for a sippy cup, she could drink it at night when she has a dry throat or a coughing fit. Even if she doesn’t reach for it herself, having it near her bed gives you quick access to offer it.
7. Don’t give a lot of food (and offer blank ones)
I always forgot that my sick kids were in no mood to eat, and ended up offering them the same meals I made for myself. And I wonder why they kept vomiting!
Instead, I learned to offer bland food, and to do so in small amounts throughout the day. As with water, small amounts of bland food are more likely to stay in the body than giving three big meals and snacks.
If your child has diarrhea, you can also offer the BRAT diet, which stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These foods are supposed to help stop diarrhea and loose bowel movements. Other bland foods you can offer include crackers, oatmeal, yogurt and broth.
8. Encourage your child to nap
As with water, rest is the best remedy your child needs right now. It can be tough getting her to take a nap, especially if she’s already outgrown them. Still, she’ll likely feel tired, so make your environment conducive to take naps.
For instance, if she still naps and happens to take a long one, let her sleep in. Her body needs as much sleep as possible. If you notice she’s looking listless, invite her to your bed and set up an impromptu nap area. She might asleep on your bed after snuggling together.
9. Keep “sick items” on hand
One of the reasons sick days can be such a hassle is because we’re unprepared. One time, I realized we didn’t have medicine, and that we were running low on sanitizing wipes. Keeping your home well-stocked before sickness strikes makes handling sick kids much easier.
Here’s what I recommend you keep on hand:
- Fever, cough, and allergy medicine that haven’t expired
- Vicks VapoRub
- Sanitizing wipes
- Household cleaning supplies
- Laundry detergent and quarters (if you share a washer and dryer with your neighbors)
- Tissue paper
- Extra sets of beddings and pillows
- Hand sanitizers
Whew! We covered a lot, and unfortunately, this information can be all too easy to forget. That’s why I wrote this article and created a quick sheet as a reference guide for when it happens again.
Offer appropriate remedies and medicine, and monitor your child’s temperature. Sanitize your home and wash your hands often to prevent spreading germs. Keep her comfortable and remember that she’s likely nauseous or groggy right now. Offer food and water strategically, depending on her ailments.
Encourage her to sleep or at least rest throughout the day, and keep your supplies well-stocked to avoid last-minute errands.
Print out the guide below and keep it tacked on the refrigerator or organized in a binder. Because it’ll happen—the kids will get sick, even on the days when you didn’t plan for it at all. But at least now you’ll be better prepared and know exactly what to do.
Get more tips:
- How to Get a Sick Baby to Sleep
- 9 Ways to Keep Kids from Getting Sick at School
- How to Get Kids to Eat Vegetables
- Help Your Child with Stomach Flu with These Best Practices
Free printables: Want a summary of the tips found in this article, plus a blank template to fill with your own go-to remedies? Join my newsletter and download your guide below! You’ll also get the printable dosage tracker to note what medicines you gave. Grab it below: