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Hem Take time off to care for your sick child at home – the pediatrician’s guide

Take time off to care for your sick child at home – the pediatrician’s guide

Woman cuddling baby

Your child’s sick and it’s time for you to take some days off work to stay home and care for them. Understandably, you might be unsure about how to monitor your child’s symptoms, when you need to refer your child, or just how to deal with a sick child at home. This post will guide you through these questions and more.

When should I take my child’s temperature?

It’s unnecessary to take your child’s temperature all the time! Children rarely like their temperature taken, so it’s probably best to do it as rarely as possible. If your child does not feel hot, then they do not have a fever. You do not need to confirm this with a thermometer. If your child feels very hot, they most likely have a fever at 38.5C degrees.

So, take your child’s temperature only when you are unsure. Otherwise, trust your hand!

Mother taking the temperature of children with fever
Mother taking the temperature of children with fever
What should I do when my child becomes ill?
  1. Plan to stay home for at least two days.
  2. Discuss with the child’s other parent about who should be at home with the child.
  3. Call preschool and your workplace to inform them.
  4. Think of cozy and calm things you and your child can do together. Maybe you can read a book? Draw? Watch a movie? We have a secret movie, book and craft cupboard at home that is perfect for days like these. Bake coconut balls? Cuddle on the couch? Play computer games together?
  5. Give your child free access to sweet drinks and ice cream. High fluid intake is important for children who have a fever! Remind them to drink if they don’t do it themselves.
  6. Let the child sleep as much as they want (often the child wants to sleep much more than usual). Take the opportunity to relax, read my blog, call a friend or read the newspaper when the child is asleep.

Do children have to eat when they are sick?

No! Almost all children lose their appetite when they have a fever. Healthy children over 6 months can manage many days without food, and several weeks on only sweets and snacks. So do not stress about food. Give the child what they want. The child will lose a little weight, but they will regain it afterwards through increased appetite.

Do children have to drink when they are sick?

Yes! This is really important. And feel free to add a bit of sugar to your child’s drink. This will give them a bit of energy. If the child has gastroenteritis, read my posts about gastroenteritis and fluid replacement. If you find it difficult to get your child to drink, you can try giving antipyretic medication (acetaminophen or ibuprofen). Sometimes, this may work.

Read more about gastroenteritis in children

Read more about fluid replacement or oral rehydration therapy in children

Read more about acetaminophen and ibuprofen for fever in children

Do children have to be awake when they are sick?

The fever often goes up and down during the day. In the few moments during the day, when your child’s fever goes down, your child should perk up and be interested in playing or having something to drink. If they do not do so in 4-5 hours, then give them antipyretics (acetaminophen) and wait a few hours. If the fever goes down and your child recovers, you can rest assured that they do not have a serious infection that requires hospitalization.

If your child does not wake up at all or makes no contact, even when you try to wake them, then seek medical assistance immediately!

If your child does not recover after acetaminophen, and has not been interested in you or playing for 6 hours, then seek the pediatric emergency department!

Serious infections can occur in previously healthy children. These infections can be both viral infections and bacterial infections. If your child is not interested in the environment at all, or does not wake up, they may have a serious infection that requires treatment and monitoring at a pediatric hospital.

When should I go to the medical center?

1. If your child still has a fever of more than 38.5C degrees for 4 days straight.

2. If your child has a fever and seems to have pain in the ear that does not dissipate in a couple of days with the help of nasal drops and pain relief.

3. If your child’s temperature is more than 38.5C degrees on the second day, and does not have any signs or symptoms of the common cold. Take your child’s urine sample to the medical center, as it may be a urinary tract infection that needs to be treated with antibiotics. If the urine sample shows signs of a urinary tract infection, be sure to get a referral to a pediatrician for follow-up.

Read more about urinary tract infection in children here

4. If your child has a sore throat and high fever without a runny nose, cough or sneezing. Your child may need antibiotic treatment for their sore throat.

Why do children get sick so often?

A healthy child with ‘normal development’ will have 6-10 colds every year and each cold will last 1-2 weeks. Common cold viruses spread most during the winter months. Therefore 10 cold episodes, lasting 2 weeks each, within six months (or 20 colds within 26 weeks if you’re unlucky) is still completely normal. Children will often have a high fever when they have a cold or gastroenteritis. That’s their immune system fighting the virus. It’s not uncommon that temperatures can rise to over 40-41C degrees .

You can read more about children who often get a fever in this post.

If it feels stressful to know that children can have so many fevers, then the good news is that in most cases, the child can fight these viruses off themselves. For every virus the child encounters, except calicivirus in gastroenteritis, the body develops a memory and immunity against it. This protection means that the next time the child encounters the same virus, the child will not become sick, or will only become a little bit sick. But there are many viruses and many infections that are needed to be protected against.

Since in most cases (88% of cases according to The Swedish Public Health Agency ) children are able to fight their infections off themselves, they rarely need to visit the doctor. At least a couple of days at home might actually do the trick! That’s nice to know!

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