The Overlooked Sign Your Kid’s About to Get Sick

The Overlooked Sign Your Kid's About to Get Sick

“My mouth hurts!” my three-year-old wailed as I went to get him out of bed in the morning. 

Upon further questioning, I determined it was actually his throat that was painful, not his mouth. 

“I’ll get the flashlight,” my husband declared, and after shining it into the back of my son’s mouth, turned to me and mouthed “S-T-R-E-P.” 

I took a peek and sure enough, white spots. Lots of ’em. 

And so we began the dreaded sick-kid dance of rearranging schedules, making urgent doctor appointments, and caring for a little one who can’t quite comprehend why he feels so miserable. 

If only I had seen this coming, I thought. If only there had been a sign he was getting sick. 

Turns out there was a sign, I just didn’t know to look for it. 

The Overlooked Sign Your Kid's About to Get Sick

Sometimes there are obvious hints of an impending illness. Your son begins coughing a bit. Your daughter seems more lethargic than usual.

But lots of times, it seems like our kids get sick out of absolutely nowhere. They’re fine one minute and—BAM!—fever/cough/runny nose the next.

Over the years I’ve learned that anticipating my child’s physical health—or lack thereof—means looking for warning signs beyond the obvious bodily ones. It means observing his emotional state as much as his physical one.

It means paying a lot of attention to his resilience.

You see, when my son is on the verge of getting sick, his resilience goes out the window.

He loses the ability to deal with life’s little frustrations and disappointments rationally (or at least as rationally as a preschooler can). Every molehill becomes a mountain. Every drop of spilled milk is worth a sobfest.

He just cannot cope like he usually does, and the result is a lot of extra whining when I offer the “wrong” kind of cereal or pair of socks or bedtime story. 

Usually when this happens I get frustrated with him. I tell him to stop whining so much (which doesn’t work anyway, whether he’s getting sick or not). I plead with him to stop making such a big deal out of everything.

And then he wakes up the next morning with a sore throat or a fever or a stuffy nose. And it all makes sense.

Ohhhhhhh, so that’s why he was having such a tough time yesterday! There’s that sign I was longing for!

Of course, sometimes there really is no way to see it coming. Sometimes kids really do get sick out of nowhere, without a single warning sign.

But if your kid is usually pretty resilient and suddenly loses the ability to cope with the little frustrations of everyday life, stop and consider that maybe his/her body is coming down with something. Unfortunately an illness could be right around the corner. 

Does your child show any warning signs before he/she comes down with an illness? 

Want more? Check out these brilliant mom hacks for sick kids!

11 responses to “The Overlooked Sign Your Kid’s About to Get Sick”

  1. Get well soon little guy! I wish there was some magic way of determining what’s coming after your child vomits: sometimes it’s randomly one and done and you wonder what that was all about. Other times it’s the start of a 24 hr or even week long event. If only there was a way to know which one of those options it was!

  2. Mine are at this stage right now and I’m trying to head it off with lots of early bedtimes. My middle tells me his “mouth hurts” and my oldest says her “waist hurts.” Those took me a while to translate!

  3. Great article. It easy to notice these things in hind-sight isn’t it. I often realise that being totally off your food is a sign of illness. (Although sometimes it’s just my kids!)
    On the positive side, their immune system generally gets stronger and better with each illness.

  4. well… if i relied on that as my sign, my kid should be sick every second of every day. so should i. LOL
    but he just has autism. so do it.

  5. I have noticed this in hindsight, too! I also swear that my kids smell differently right before/while they are sick. My husband teases me about it, but I’ll tell him they smell like they’re getting sick and then BAM, in the middle of the night they’re up with a fever.

  6. So true! I was volunteering in my daughter’s class one day and she just kept bursting into tears. I thought something had happened or someone was mean to her…or maybe she didn’t like me being there? I asked her a million questions, asked her if she felt OK, and she insisted she did, so I was just wracking my brain figuring out what could be wrong. Another mom said, “I bet she’s getting sick,” and sure enough…when she got home I took her temp and she was running a fever. She just had no idea what was going on with her body or how to communicate it.

    • You make an excellent point about communication. I too tend to ask my kid a million times if he’s feeling OK, but sometimes he just can’t explain how he feels or he doesn’t even know what’s going on. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I always knew my son was getting sick when he was extra crabby. He’s 18 and still gets that way if he’s getting sick! I know people overlook things like this, so thanks for sharing!

  8. YES!! I was just talking to my ex-husband about this on the phone last night! He said our 9-year-old daughter was covered up in ALL the blankets and still complaining of being cold. I asked if she was feeling okay. He mentioned the runny nose that she’s had for the last couple weeks. Then I asked, “Has she had any of those ‘I can’t deal with life right now’ meltdowns tonight? If so, cancel your plans, she’ll be home sick.” Excessive crankiness and a desire to take naps are sure-fire signs that she’s sick.

  9. It got my attention when you mentioned that your child becomes irritable when he is about to get sick and that minor things tend to be extremely frustrating to him. I think I should be worried about my daughter as well. Normally, Mischa is very patient and persistent. Recently, she has been whiny and irate. I think it is a good idea to take her to the doctor and see what’s wrong.

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