Caring for Your Sick Child


Colds vs. Influenza

First, be sure you know how to distinguish a cold from the flu, because a child with the flu may need to see a doctor. “Colds and flu are both highly contagious and, in the initial stages, a bad cold and a mild case of the flu might seem alike,” according to the Centers for Disease Control. “However, flu is a serious illness that can have life-threatening complications, unlike colds.”

Note that influenza is different from what many people call “stomach flu.” Influenza is a respiratory illness. A stomach bug affects the gastrointestinal tract, and the two main symptoms are vomiting and diarrhea.

If you’re caring for your sick kid at home, check with your doctor before giving any over-the-counter medicines. Some have ingredients that are not recommended for children. Others may not be recommended for the symptoms your child has, and most should not be given to children under the age of 2.

Make your child comfortable and let them sleep as much as possible. Keep their door open and the house quiet. Check on them frequently to make sure the sheets are dry and to gauge their fever and breathing. Keep water within reach for when they awaken.

Almost every sick child needs lots of rest and lots of fluids.


High fevers are common in children and very scary for parents, but are a sign that your child’s body is fighting back against an infection. Dress your child in lightweight, breathable clothes. Make sure they rest a lot and drinks plenty of fluids (such as water, juice, and Popsicles).

Don’t give aspirin to children or teens due to the risk of Reye’s syndrome. Tylenol (acetaminophen) can help bring down a fever. Advil (ibuprofen) is also acceptable for children over the age of 6 months. Again, check with your doctor before giving medicine, even over-the-counter products made for children. Sometimes dosages can be confusing.


A frequent dilemma with a high fever is vomiting that prevents the fever-reducing medication from doing its job. Acetaminophen suppositories can be kept in the refrigerator for just such emergencies. Bring the fever down with a suppository and the vomiting often eases. Occasionally, doctors will prescribe a Phenergan (promethazine) suppository for very serious vomiting in a child.

For milder cases, keep a bucket or basin and some old towels handy. Offer the child small sips of water and bland foods if they can tolerate them. Watch for signs of dehydration.


Fluids are important for easing upper respiratory symptoms (like coughing and sneezing) as well as for critical rehydration if your child has diarrhea or is vomiting. Keep Pedialyte on hand for times when your child experiences diarrhea and vomiting with a fever.


A detailed review of the ability for parents to treat their children’s illnesses at home. How to diagnose, monitor, treat, and when to seek help. Directly outlines the danger of dehydration. Focuses on the difference between colds and flus and how to treat these separately. It is very important for parents to know how to help and care for their sick child. It also mentions the need to keep the child entertained and calm to not worsen the symptoms.


Kimberly L. Keith, M. E. (2022, January 14). Caring for your sick child. Verywell Family. Retrieved September 1, 2022, from