5 Ways to Make Sick Days Better For Little Ones

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I received product and compensation from Mead Johnson Nutrition to create this post written by me. All experiences and opinions expressed in this post are my own and not those of Mead Johnson Nutrition. You can contact Mead Johnson Nutrition with product related questions or comments toll free at 1-888-777-3395.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to a movie for our first date night in many months. Our daughter Essley had a slight cold (mainly just some sneezing) but was active and playing, so we left her and her brother with my mom and headed out. Guess what? We made it through about half the movie before we were back in the car on our way home. Essley had started vomiting from coughing (all it takes to make this child throw up is the mention of something that grosses her out, so when she’s even a little bit sick, you can pretty much guarantee there’s going to be some barf), and was weeping that she wanted her mommy. A few hours and a couple more barf sessions later, she spiked a fever. She woke up throughout the night, and despite my best efforts, refused any fluids. This continued into the next morning, and by early afternoon she was beginning to get dehydrated.

Thankfully, by late afternoon, Essley was starting to feel more like herself again. And as awful as it is (for the little ones and the parents) when your kid is ill, I’m actually grateful we’ve been through it enough times that we now know what works to make ours feel better – including how to make those sick days a little more enjoyable in general. With the school year back underway (aka the time my kids seem to be sick more often than they’re not) and cold/flu season quickly approaching, I thought I’d share some of the ways we get through our sick days as pleasantly as possible. (Please note: there are my personal tips that work with my own kids when they’ve got non-serious illnesses like colds. None of this should be taken as medical advice. If your little one is sick, you should consult your pediatrician.)

1. Find ways to make rest fun. My kids like to be active pretty much all the time. Even when they’re sick, they usually want to be up and doing something. Rest is important for healing, but getting them to relax is a challenge – so we try to find ways to make it fun. We do story times where they can pick out books and we sit in a chair across from them to read to them (think story hour at the library), so it feels like a special event. Or we have movie “marathons” where they can choose two movies to watch in a row, as long as they stay sitting or lying down. (They’ll never argue with extra screen time!) Sometimes we even have contests to see who can rest the longest. If resting doesn’t seem boring to them, they’re more likely to do it longer.

2. Make cuddling a priority.  This might seem like an obvious one, but I wanted to include it because sometimes I personally need the reminder. My kids and I (and their dad) are very affectionate in general, but sometimes if they’ve been sick for a few days and I feel like I’ve fallen behind on work or things around the house, I start to stress and become so focused on getting that stuff done that I forget how healing it can be just to snuggle with my kids. It helps keep them calm so they’ll rest, and it’s also emotionally and mentally good for them to know their parents are focused on taking care of them. On the other side, some people actually advise against this because it increases your chances of getting whatever your child has, but I’m telling you guys – there is nothing my kids want more than to be held when they aren’t feeling well.

3. Restore and/or maintain hydration. As I mentioned earlier, Essley tends to throw up even with colds, and that combined with the fact that she has very little interest in eating or drinking when she doesn’t feel well can quickly lead to dehydration. Being dehydrated not only makes kids feel worse, it can also escalate an illness to something more serious very quickly. When Essley was sick a couple of weeks ago, the first thing I did to help her stay hydrated was give her some Enfamil® Enfalyte® oral electrolyte solution. It  didn’t take long for her to feel better and become well hydrated again. We’re big fans of Enfalyte because it’s a clear formulation with no artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners, and it (quickly!) replaces electrolytes and water that can be lost if your little one is vomiting or having diarrhea (or even exercising or playing on a hot day). When Essley had to go to the ER for flu over the winter, the hospital recommended it (and it’s been used by hospitals for over 25 years), so that was enough for us to always keep some on hand. And the flavors (Cherry Splash or Mixed Fruit) are mild, which Essley prefers to strong tasting drinks, especially when she’s ill. One major thing I’ve learned since becoming a parent is how much a sick day can take a turn for the better when your child’s hydration is restored. (Again, always consult with your pediatrician if you are concerned about illness or dehydration. Here are some great resources as well: Is My Child Dehydrated? and Maintaining Hydration. There is also a handy infographic at the end of this post.)

4. Play doctor/hospital.  If your kids are older they probably won’t go for this, but for my 1.5 and 3.5 year olds, this is the first thing they want to do when they’re not feeling well. Essley always picks one of her stuffed animals or dolls to be sick alongside her, and she takes care of it while I take care of her. (When she was sick a couple of weeks ago, she took Happy Dog’s temperature, kept him hydrated with Enfalyte, and covered him in bandages.) I think it makes her feel less alone in her illness, and also makes her feel like she’s doing something important. It’s one of our “go-to’s” on sick days.

5. Break the rules. When the kids are sick, we let things like strict bedtimes and other “rules” (no treats before meals, must clean up current mess before moving on to other toys, limited screen time, etc.) slide. Our number one goal is to get them better as quickly as possible with as little misery as possible, and loosening up schedules and rules a little during those days makes them easier on everyone.

How to recognize dehydration in toddlers

I hope the small things we find helpful when our kids aren’t feeling well prove helpful for you as well! How do you make sick days better experiences for your kids?


This is sponsored by Enfamil® Enfalyte® Oral Electrolyte Solution. Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible.

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