When we are not well, what we most want is someone to look after us, to give us food and sympathy and peace to rest. When children are sick, they need all of this and more. When they are unwell, and especially if they are in pain, children often feel frightened or worried. They need to be cared for by the people they feel close to.
Unless they are very sick, most young children will not stay in bed. Sick children want to be near you or to be where the action is. Being able to lie on a soft chair where they can watch you is more restful than being alone in a bedroom. Many sick children just want to lie in your arms for a while. Gentle massage of the tummy, head or legs may be very soothing to them.
Most children who are unwell do not want to eat much, not eating for a few days will not do them any harm. It is important for them to have extra drinks, especially if they have tummy upsets or diarrhea or asthma. Try giving small drinks often such as milk, water, diluted fruit juice, or fruit juice ice blocks.
Many of the illnesses that children have are because of infections (coughs and colds, chicken pox, tummy upsets) which they can pass on to others in the family. Sick children still need to be held, kissed and comforted, but be very careful about hand washing and cleanliness to help protect yourself and the rest of the family.
Older people and babies are more likely to become very ill with infections, so you need to ask friends or relatives before you go to visit with a sick child. Try not to have many outings or visitors to your house. Do not take your child to places where there are a lot of young children.
When a young child is sick, he is likely to act in a more baby-like way for a while. Your child may:
- cry or whine more
- want you to be near all the time
- want lots of holding and cuddles
- speak in a more baby-like way
- need a dummy again even if he has given it up
- wet the bed or his pants.
Some sick children, especially those under three years, refuse to be with anyone except mum or their main caregiver.
It is not wise to leave sick children at home alone, or in the care of an older child, so if you cannot care for them yourself try to get another adult to do so.
Children often get better quickly, but if they stay unwell, or have the following symptoms:
- a fever or pain lasting more than a couple of hours
- your child looks very pale and ill
- vomiting often
- diarrhea goes on for over 24 hours
- wheezing or being short of breath
- bad headache
- an unusual rash
they may have a serious illness, and it would be wise to see your doctor.