Little Kids

11 tricks for making a sick day less stressful

It sucks when kids are sick. You can use all the help you can get—so try these smart tips to make sick days less stressful.

11 tricks for making a sick day less stressful

Photo: iStockphoto

1. Layer up the bedsheets

Barf at 3:32 a.m. is bad enough. Rummaging through your disaster of a hall closet in search of a fresh set of sheets can put you over the edge. Layer this combo over your kid’s mattress as many times as you can (depending on how many sheets you have): one waterproof mattress cover, plus one fitted sheet. This way, when puke happens, you can pull off the soiled set to reveal clean ones underneath, dump it out of sight until morning, switch out the pillowcases, and you’re all (hopefully) back to sleep (or at least not making up a bed).

2. Teach her to blow

Your kid’s too big for a snot sucker but not quite getting the concept of nose blowing. To practise, place a cotton ball on the table. With her mouth closed, have her blow air out of her nose and try to move the cotton ball. Now try with a tissue: Have her gently press one nostril closed while she blows with the other and then switch sides. Remind her to toss the tissue and wash her hands when she’s done.


3. Get the flu vaccine

Despite recent US recommendations against the nasal mist flu vaccine, Canadian experts say it’s just as good an option as the flu shot. Joan Robinson, chair of the Canadian Paediatric Society’s Immunization and Infectious Diseases Committee, says that currently, the evidence is sufficiently convincing to continue using the nasal mist flu vaccine. It’s up to parents to decide which—the mist or the shot—is best for their kid.

4. Be brief with work

Your boss doesn’t need the gory details of what went down (the toilet) last night. Just tell her the facts, and how you plan to deal with your work and the time you’ll miss.

5. Measure carefully

It’s easy to reach for a teaspoon, but measuring liquid medicine this way can be risky. A recent study in Pediatrics found more than 80 percent of parents made dosing errors with liquid meds. Always measure in millilitres with an oral syringe or a marked medicine cup—they often come with prescription and over-the-counter meds, or ask your pharmacist for one.

6. Get a handle on work policies

If you’re not clear on it, make sure you understand how many sick and personal days you have, whether they can be used if someone other than yourself is ill, and what the policy is on unpaid leave.

7. Suck it up


How do you give a baby medicine? Use scissors to cut the tip off an open-ended soother to create a small opening. Stick the oral syringe through the soother channel to drop medicine inside.

8. Understand daycare rules

A lot of daycare centres don’t want sick kids back until they’ve been fever-, barf- and diarrhea-free for at least 24 hours. Home-based caregivers might not balk at a runny nose, cough or even a mild fever.

9. Have a backup plan

In a pinch, you want a family member, friend or babysitter (college and university students are great) who has flexible daytime hours. Leave them plenty of snacks—and hand sanitizer.

10. Ease an earache

Try this simple and natural trick using materials you likely have on hand. Pour a cup of coarse salt into a clean white cotton sports sock. (As table salt can easily seep out of the sock, it doesn’t work as well.) Tie a knot at the end of the sock and place it in a clean skillet over medium-low heat for about five minutes, shaking the sock and flipping it over at the halfway point. After testing the temperature on your inner arm, apply the sock to the affected ear and hold in place for up to 10 minutes.

11. Try to relax

The best medicine for a sick kid is time and rest. So instead of feeling frantic and seeing it as an inconvenience, consider it an opportunity to bond and reboot. A shift in perspective can make all the difference.


A version of this article appeared in our October 2016 issue with the headline, "Sick happens," p. 72. 

This article was originally published on Jan 26, 2021

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