The Best Rule of Thumb When Caring for a Sick Child

As a parent, one of the scariest things you'll do is take care of a sick baby or child. It's hard to know when to go to the doctor and when to wait it out and when to give them medicine and when to hold off. Our darling Coco is so sick tonight. I snuck into her room and took this photo just now. Such flushed cheeks and dark under eye circles. Poor little bunny!

Luckily for us, we feel pretty confident when it comes to taking care of sick kiddos. My mom gave us the most amazing rule of thumb to follow. That pearl of wisdom, plus all of our favorite remedies, after the jump.

Making the decision to go to the doctor can be tricky, and we almost always call the nurse helpline when in doubt - or not! Either way, it's nice to have their reassurance and advice. Another invaluable resource we've used again and again is Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, probably the most sensible book on parenting and caring for infants and children ever written. Of course, it goes without saying that this blog post is not intended to be a replacement for medical care in any way.

But, when you're dealing with a run of the mill cold or fever and you're at home trying to make your child comfortable, we have found this gem of wisdom from my mom to be the best guide of all:

Don't intervene unless your child can't sleep.

It seems so obvious, and yet so brilliant! If your sick child is sleeping, then their body is able to do its work and heal. However, if they can't sleep, their body can't get any rest and can't do its work and can't heal itself. Makes sense, right? Sleep is the key.

Tonight, Coco went to sleep without any medicine, but she woke up an hour later hot and cranky and miserable and crying. She was burning up! I got her to drink some of the water I had next to her bed in her Munchkin Miracle Cup, which is the best because it does not spill and kids can drink out of these cups lying down, without having to sit up. Then I gave her a dose of our favorite chewable children's ibuprofen. The chewable tablets are fool-proof and I always know I'm giving the correct dose.

Now that Coco and Theo are older, we use the Braun Ear Thermometer to take their temperature - and they love it! It's so fast and painless and definitely worth the investment. But when they were babies, we always used this Vick's Baby Rectal Thermometer. It's impossible to over-insert and gets a super accurate read in ten seconds.

One of the best things about having a baby in Switzerland was the suppositories. Do I have your attention now? HA! No, seriously, Paracetamol (similar to Acetaminophen) is the fever reducer and pain reliever given to babies until six months of age in the land of cows and chocolate and it is delivered via suppository. Have you ever tried to get a baby to take medicine orally?! They turn their heads and spit it out and you know they haven't gotten enough, but you're afraid to give them too much, so you just give up. This does not happen with suppositories; they are perfect. And, good news for American moms. Infant suppositories are now available. Collective cheer!

Other items we always have on hand: The Nose Frida. It is super disgusting, but really works. Then again, I did get pretty sick after using it one time, so maybe one of these is better? Little Remedies saline solution to loosen stuffy noses. Vick's Baby Rub to soothe coughs and open airways. And, our trusty and attractive, easy to clean, straight out of a fairy tale cool mist mushroom humidifier.

I'm staying home from work tomorrow and hoping that, despite the high fever and lethargy, Coco bounces back quickly. She has only been really sick once in her life, four years ago. It was pretty scary to see her so tired and down for the count and J and I both were reminded of that frightening time tonight when Coco fell asleep on the floor next to the dinner table. Poor bunny! Hopefully tomorrow will be filled with lots of rest, lots of liquids and lots of snuggles on the couch watching movies together. Wish me luck! And what are your go-to tips and tricks for taking care of a sick baby or child?

PS - Coco and Theo's lovey blankets and stuffed animal.


  1. The suppositories! We were hanging with our friends here whom we met in Zurich when suddenly Paloma fell ill with a fever. I didn't have any meds on hand, but my friend had those suppositories. Isaiah and I were weirded out, but she insisted all babies get them in CH, so we gave one to her and it was an almost instant improvement! Such a great rule of thumb, btw!


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