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

Mother cuddling child on the couch

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 not necessary to take your child’s temperature so often! 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, they do not have a fever. You do not need to confirm this with a thermometer. If the child feels very hot, they most likely have a fever at 38.5 degrees. I usually confirm this by taking my child’s temperature, but maybe I should stop as I’ve never been wrong.

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 work place to inform them.
  4. Think of cozy and calm things you and the child can do together. Maybe you can read a book? Draw? Watch a movie? We have a secret movie and 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. Remind them to drink / eat ice cream if they do not do it themselves. Fluid is important during a fever!
  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 in your child’s drink. It will give them a bit of energy. If the child has gastroenteritis, read the posts about gastroenteritis and fluid replacement. If it is difficult to get the child to drink, you can try antipyretic medication (acetaminophen or ibuprofen). Sometimes it goes better.

Read more about stomach illness here.

Read more about fluid replacement here.

Read more about Alvedon and Ipren for children here.

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 the fever goes down, the child should perk up and be interested in playing or having something to drink, or you. If the child does not do so in 4-5 hours, then give the child antipyretics (acetaminophen) and wait a few hours. If the fever goes down and the child recovers, you can rest assured that the child does not have a serious infection that requires hospitalization.

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

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

Serious infections also occur in previously healthy children, both viral infections and bacterial infections. If the 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 seek the to the medical center?

1. If the child still has a fever of more than 38.5 degrees on the fourth day.

2. If the child has a fever and seems to have pain in the ear and it does not get better in a couple of days sitting upright, with nasal drops and pain relief.

3. If the child’s temperature is more than 38.5 degrees on the second day, and does not have a cold at all. Bring a 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 the child has a sore throat and high fever without runny nose, cough or sneezing. The sore throat may need antibiotic treatment.

Why do children get sick so often?

During their first years of life, a healthy child with ‘normal development’ will have 6-10 colds every year and each cold will last 1-2 weeks. Cold viruses spread most during the winter months. Therefore 10 colds lasting 2 weeks each within six months (or 20 colds within 26 weeks if you are a unlucky) is still completely normal. Children’s immune system often reacts to colds and gastroenteritis, with high fever. It’s not uncommon that temperatures can rise to over 40-41 degrees celsius.

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

If it feels stressful to think that the child can have so many fevers, then the good news is that in most cases, the child can fight their cold 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 children (88% of cases according to The Swedish Public Health Agency ) are able to fight their infections off themselves, they rarely need to visit the doctor. That’s nice to know!

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