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When my oldest child was not quite two years old, we took him for a train ride on a real-life Thomas the Tank Engine.
This is going to be so much fun! I remember thinking the morning of the trip. What a wonderful family excursion I’ve planned! He is going to love it!
But he did not love it.
Quite the opposite, actually.
He spent most of the time whining to be held, then whining to be put down the moment I picked him up. He shied away from all the sights and sounds, but then cried when we took him away from the hustle and bustle.
He didn’t have any clue what he wanted, and we didn’t either.
That day my son was one unhappy child, which made me one frustrated mama. Come on, this was supposed to be FUN! I remember thinking.
After an hour and a half, we threw in the towel and headed to the car. We were all grouchy the rest of the day.
You know where this is heading, don’t you?
The following morning, my son woke up with a fever.
Coincidence? No way.
There I was, frustrated and annoyed with my innocent little toddler who just so happened to have a double ear infection that I didn’t detect. Cue a massive dose of mom guilt.
Fortunately I learned my lesson that day. Today I am much better at caring for a sick toddler—which I proved when my two-year-old had a stomach bug a few weeks ago. Here’s exactly how I kept her comfortable and got her healthy again as quickly as possible.
6 Essential Tips for Caring for a Sick Toddler
Watch for the early indications of illness.
Sometimes it feels like kids get sick out of nowhere; one minute they’re bouncing off the walls excitedly and the next minute they’re sick as a dog.
But often there are very subtle, easy-to-miss indications that our kids are about to go under the weather—like acting more whiny or “needy” than usual, seeming extra tired, experiencing disruptions in their sleep, and displaying a lack of interest in playing or eating.
In my daughter’s case, the day before she got sick she wanted me to hold her all day long—even insisting on sitting on my lap while I used the bathroom! She usually clings to me a bit, but not that much, so I knew something was up.
The sooner we recognize these early warning indications in our toddlers, the better prepared we will be to take care of them.
Offer plenty of fluids.
One of the best things you can do for your toddler when they’re sick? Keep them hydrated.
When children are vomiting or experiencing diarrhea, dehydration is a real concern. Mild dehydration can be tough to detect in young children, but some common indications are:
- Dry mouth and tongue
- Fewer tears when crying
- Urinating less frequently
- Less active than usual
(Here are some helpful references on detecting child dehydration and maintaining hydration in children.)
When my toddler was sick, we offered her small sips of Enfamil® Enfalyte®, which is an oral electrolyte solution that quickly replaces electrolytes and water that can be lost during an illness. It offers a proper balance of carbs to promote fluid and electrolyte absorption—it helps to restore hydration FAST.
Enfalyte is CLEAR in that it doesn’t contain any artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners, and it comes in two mild flavors (Cherry Splash and Mixed Fruit).
My toddler really liked it, so we had to be careful not to let her drink it too quickly! Drinking fluids is important, but drinking them too fast can overload their little bellies and make them feel even sicker.
Of course, you should always consult with your pediatrician if you’re worried about dehydration. Learn more about Enfalyte and how it can keep your toddler hydrated in the face of an illness.
Rest, rest, rest.
Considering that my daughter’s only two, we try to limit her screen time appropriately. But when her little tummy wasn’t feeling right, all bets were off. We wanted her to get as much rest as possible, and that meant more time in front of the television in a single day than she usually watches in a week. And I was totally fine with that.
Quiet the entire house.
The last time I visited the local hospital, I noticed signs all over the place with people holding their pointer fingers to their lips in the universal “shhhhhh” motion. “Help us maintain a calm and healing environment for our patients,” the signs read.
That message is equally applicable while caring for a sick toddler at home. We all heal better in a calm, peaceful, quiet environment. So go ahead and dim the lights, turn the volume down, and speak softly.
Of course, this is much easier if you don’t have other children running around. We did our best to explain to our preschooler why his little sister needed him to play more quietly for a day or two, and encouraged him to play upstairs in his room a bit more than usual.
Don’t automatically fear a low-grade fever.
Parents today have grown so afraid of their children’s fevers that there’s actually a term for it: fever phobia.
At best, this exaggerated fear of fevers is unnecessary. At worst, it’s harmful. That’s because a low-grade fever is not an illness in and of itself; it’s simply an indication that our children’s bodies are fighting something off.
So when my daughter’s fever was low and she wasn’t acting particularly uncomfortable, we held off on any medicine and instead let the low-grade fever do its thing.
Of course, every child is different; the degree of a child’s illness and the specific circumstances can vary, so always consults your pediatrician for specific advice regarding fevers!
Think beyond the BRAT diet.
The BRAT diet (which stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast) used to be the standard recommendation for children with diarrhea. The idea was that these bland foods are easy for your gut to digest when it’s recovering from an illness.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, no longer recommends the BRAT diet because it can be too restrictive and doesn’t give some children all the nutrients they need. If you’re keeping your child hydrated with plenty of fluids like Enfalyte, your doctor may tell you it’s best to continue their usual diet. Indeed, some studies have shown that consuming their regular diet actually reduces the duration of diarrhea!
Caring for a sick toddler is NO FUN for anyone. But we’ve found that offering plenty of fluids—along with implementing these other useful tips—helps our little ones feel better faster.
This is sponsored by Enfamil® Enfalyte® Oral Electrolyte Solution.
15 responses to “What You Need to Know About Caring For a Sick Toddler”
These are great tips to know especially since I have a two year old and with winter coming soon.
The only time I ever used BRAT with my kids were vomiting and couldn’t keep anything else down. That was 25 years ago. I never heard of using it for for diarrhea. And yes – I agree on the fever front.
I am happy to see that more natural options exist for treating dehydration. When my kids were little, it seemed like everything was full of artificial flavors.
These are great tips. I’m sure with the season changing these will really come in handy.
I’m so thankful our kids are rarely sick. I make a homemade electrolyte drink that they really love!
I remember my pediatrician always saying FLUIDS AND REST. FLUIDS AND REST. It really is the cure all.
Good things to know! I’m just getting ready for my first baby and I’ll be sure to tuck this away for later!
I LOVE this has no artificial flavors! My daughter has a food dye allergy and regular electrolyte drinks make her nuts.
It’s definitely good to look out for those symptoms now that we’re heading into winter. Enfalyte is going to help a lot with hydration.
My toddler has a cold right now, shes all stuffy and clingy. The hardest part is getting her to rest! Shes my crazy monster and doesn’t know when to take a break even though she desperately needs it
These are all great tips. It’s amazing what negative effects dehydration can have so it’s good to know about Enfalyte. I wish I’d had it when my kids were little. Nothing worse than when they’re sick.
Ear infections are so painful! It’s great to know there are ways to help little ones feel better, despite being under the weather. Keeping them hydrated is so important.
I need to let my sister in law know about this. My niece just got over being sick and she could have used this as she wasn’t drinking.
it is always the worst when our little ones get sick! these are great recommendations like keeping the house quite and giving plenty of fluids!
I appreciate it when you mentioned that you let your daughter watch the TV more whenever she was not feeling well because you want her to rest as much as possible. My husband actually mentioned the same thing when I noticed that our baby girl was not feeling well, but I thought that it would cause an adverse effect on her. Now I know that his suggestion was actually right. I’ll let our princess watch as much TV as she wants after her visit to the pediatrician. Thanks.