10 simple things to do when taking care of a sick child

  1. Expose – If a child has a fever, strip them to their underpants or diapers ONLY. Blog-sick childrenAllow them to lose heat and they will immediately brighten up. If they are shivering, it is the body’s mechanism to help them lose heat. Give them a light sheet to cover themselves. No blankets. No sweaters. This simple step can help us prevent febrile convulsions in children who are predisposed to them. Allow the child to sleep exposed as well even at night. Just be nearby to cover them up once the fever drops as they may get cold and to uncover them again if fever begins to rise again.
  2. CONTROL FEVER – Give fever medication as instructed. If the medication is to be given every 6 hours, please arrange for every 6 hours until fever is controlled. For instance 6a.m, 12noon, 6pm and 12midnight. If the medication time falls at a time when the child is asleep, use suppositories so that you do not wake the child or disturb them little. Do not try to spoon feed a child who is struggling to wake up in the middle of the night, they could choke. Create a medication chart and put all the medications due on this chart so that it is given as prescribed to help the child feel better.
  3. Give plenty of fluids – Please give a sick child as much fluids as they want. Just make sure that it is good fluids like apple juice, ribena, water, milk, soup. DON’T give sodas….. If the child is in diapers, ensure that they are passing urine. Older children should be going for short calls several times a day. Lack of urine means inadequate fluid intake and the child may require rehydration in a medical facility.
  4. Give ORS/glucose solutions – If the child refuses to eat completely, especially with diarrhea and/or vomiting, make a glucose solution that is sweet but not overly done in a big bottle. Then mix the ORS (Oral Rehydration Salts) in a liter of water in a different bottle. Mix the two solutions and allow the child to take as much as they want for the next 1-2days. (This is a trick to mask the taste of ORS especially if the child refuses the ORS).Bog-sick kids1By the second or third day, they should be feeling hungry and will ask for food. This will ensure that the child gets all the glucose and electrolytes they need.
  5. DO not force feed – It is better for a child to eat one spoonful of food and retain it than to eat a plateful and throw up. They will have lost more in terms of fluid and electrolytes. One does not HAVE to eat a meal to get required nutrients and energy. Give fluids as in 3 and 4 above. Even a few sips every few minutes is okay. Just keep the fluids available always and allow rests after every half glass/cup of fluid. Do not worry that the child is not having bowel movements at this time. When they get better things will normalize.
  6. Withdraw milk for 24 – 48 hours – this is for children with diarrhea and vomiting. Milk tends to irritate the intestines and be poorly digested and provoke more diarrheas and vomiting. Substitute with the fluids mentioned in 3 and 4 above for this duration. By the 2nd or 3rd day, symptoms will have subsided and the child will ask for food and their milk. This is only for milk other than breastfeeding. Breastfeeding should continue on demand for those who are breastfeeding.
  7. Allow them to eat anything – if the child wants a biscuit, an apple or bread, give them that. This is the only time when children should be allowed to be picky. At the end of the day, some of the fever medications and antibiotics may be a little harsh on the tummy and the child needs to line the stomach with food to avoid irritating the gut and provoking abdominal pains and vomiting.
  8. Let them rest and sleep – Children should be allowed 1-2 days off from school to let them sleep. Blog-sick kids4They probably have disturbed sleep at night and do not get adequate rest. In addition, encourage them to take naps during the day. This will build up energy and allow the child to recover from the tiring experience. As much as possible, avoid waking the child up to eat or take medications. Try and get them to nap between feeding/treatment. Apart from controlling fever (for which we have discussed suppositories), many of the other medications can be delayed for sometime without any problems.
  9. Be a little flexible with entertainment – if the child wants to watch a bit of t.v., let them watch. This is because when they are distracted, they will spend less time noticing aches and pains and they will be less likely to vomit. Even during meals, allow them to watch something they like as they nibble on something. DO not force feed.Blog-sick kids5
  10. Be more attentive – give hugs, allow them to cuddle with you and sit and watch their cartoons with them when you can. This reassures them of your care and they will respond much faster than when they are left under the care of a nanny who is too busy or simply cannot be bothered to pamper the child a little.
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