Dad’s guide to sick kids
*Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor or a medical professional. Nothing in this article should be construed as medical advice. If your child is sick please consult your doctor/pediatrician for any medical advice. This article is strictly about what part a dad plays when their child is sick. If you need guidance on when you should see a doctor see this article here.
This past year has felt like a year of sickness around my house. We have had every type of sickness and it seems like it just works its way through every person so fortunately, not everyone is sick at the same time.
But because we are a two-income household my wife has to be at work. I work from home and since I have been employed longer I have more days to take off available to me. That means when kids are sick I am the one who typically stays home with the kids.
Most of the time when the kids get sick they want mom. Mom is the nurturer, she is the cuddle buddy, the bond they create when your child is a baby just makes sick kids want their mom.
But what happens when mom has to work. Maybe mom is the primary provider, or maybe mom is the only provider in the house.
It’s up to us dads. It’s time for us to step up and be that loving caring parent. We can’t be cold and distant and we have to embrace our inner Mr. Mom.
Take them to the pediatrician or urgent care
If you have any doubts about what you need or what kind of care you need for your child then take them to their pediatrician or take them to an urgent care facility.
Most insurances will only charge you a copay to see a pediatrician and even urgent care facilities are typically covered at a minor copay rate. But check with your insurance provider for more details. Most of the time the copay rates are listed on your insurance card.
I would advise you to always be more cautious with young kids and take them in. Because what may seem like something minor could be something major.
You may just think they have a slight cold but it could be an ear infection and the only way to get them better is through antibiotics and the longer you wait the worse they can become.
By taking them in earlier you may also lessen the length of time they are sick and lessen the amount of work you might have to miss.
Before heading to your doctor make sure you have everything you need. Have a copy of your insurance card, maybe a photo id, and if you don’t have their birthdates memorized then write it down. Also if you recorded any temperatures on a notepad make sure and take that to provide information to the doctor.
As a dad, what do I need when the kids are sick?
Depending on what ailment your child has depends on what you need. But let me break down a few common illnesses and what I usually keep on hand when we encounter them.
For all sickness
Pedialyte or Gatorade – Getting your kids to drink just water is hard so typically Pedialyte or Gatorade will prompt them to drink and put some electrolytes back into their bodies. And with most sicknesses, dehydration is a major concern.
Blanket or teddy bear – Your child’s favorite blanket or teddy if they are younger. Always make sure they have this as they will want that feeling of comfort when they don’t feel good.
Comfort – Just make them comfortable. If they want to lay on the couch and watch TV. Let them. If they want to lay in their bed and try to sleep. Let them. Just make sure they are comfortable.
Thermometers – Invest in a good digital ear/forehead thermometer and have an oral thermometer as a backup to take your child’s temperature. If the ear/forehead thermometer seems off then try to check it with the oral thermometer. Sometimes it’s easier for younger children to check their temperature under their arms. Just add a degree to the reading to get a truer temperature.
Notepad – Have a notepad or use a note-taking app on your phone. Take notes of times you took their temperature and the reading. Also, make notes of symptoms and when they start/stop. This is helpful if you go back to the doctor as they can use this information for a better diagnosis.
With a stomach bug, you might not even go to the doctor. Very few people are immune to a stomach virus and kids always seem to get the worse end of it. But they usually only last about 24 hours.
Extra clothes – Make sure and have extra clothes at the ready. Change of clothes and/or underwear in case of an accident. You may want to make sure you have extra sheets in case they throw up in the bed.
Towel and bucket – Have a towel and a bucket for vomiting. We typically put a beach towel under our kids and then use a small trashcan or bucket in case they vomit.
Baby wipes – If they have diarrhea their bottom will get sore from wiping with toilet paper. Baby wipes can help, just make sure they throw them away and don’t flush the wipes.
Food from the B.R.A.T. (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) diet – When they get ready to eat again start them off with things on the B.R.A.T. diet to ease their body back into eating. We also like to do crackers and chicken noodle soup.
If they are older make sure you have over-the-counter medication to treat the symptoms. Once again always consult your doctor when in question because a lot of cold medicines are not made for younger kids.
Avoid milk – Younger kids will want to drink milk. But milk can make congestion that much worse. Always try to push them to drink water or maybe even a little juice. Pedialyte is a great substitute here also.
Tissues – It never fails that when someone gets sick in our house we are out of tissues. Try to keep a spare box around just in case someone gets a cold.
Nasal Aspirator (aka snot sucker) – This is one of the worst things you will do to a young child. But when they get so congested and they don’t know how to blow their nose you have to get the snot out. And this can make a difference between a kid getting no sleep or some sleep.
Humidifier – A humidifier can help with congestion also. Get one and put it in their room at night to help them sleep better. Make sure and follow the directions with the humidifier for full effect and make sure it is in a safe location where the kids can’t mess with it.
Make sure they are getting their medicine
If the doctor has prescribed them medicine make sure they are taking the right dose and taking it at the right times. Always follow the instructions as directed unless your doctor tells you otherwise.
If you have to go to the pharmacy to pick up the medicine you will need to make sure and have your insurance card and maybe even a photo id. Most doctors now will either fax or call the pharmacy for you but some still do handwritten prescriptions so make sure you have that.
At the pharmacy, they will also ask you details about your kids usually their name and birthday. If you don’t have your kids birthdate memorized (and you should) make sure you have it written down somewhere.
Most prescriptions will have the dose (typically in mL/milliLiters) and the frequency your child should take it. When you get your prescriptions verify they included everything and look at the information. If it didn’t include one ask for a dosage syringe or dosage cup. They don’t always include one but they are helpful when taking liquid prescriptions.
If you have ANY questions, ask to speak to the pharmacist. That is what they are there for. They can answer things about dosage, side effects, if the medicine will interact with other medicines they may take on a daily basis.
Make sure they are resting
When kids are really not feeling well they will just want to lay around. And that is a good thing. When kids are sick they really need to rest and give their bodies a chance to heal. But sometimes when they get some medicine in them they will want to get up and play.
Try to keep them from over-exerting themselves. Even though they may feel temporarily good their body is still working to fight off what is making them sick. They really should be resting the entire time.
Let them sleep wherever they are most comfortable. If they need to lay in bed with you then let them lay in bed with you. If they want to sleep on the couch then get some extra covers and have a sleepover on the couch. Do whatever you can to make them comfortable and get them some good rest.
Plan on not getting much (or any) work done
If you are like me and you already work from home, plan on not getting much work done. With older kids, you might be able to get away with doing some consistent work. They can typically get by with little attention and can watch TV to keep them busy. With younger kids they might need your full attention and work will be hard to manage.
Let your coworkers and your boss know that you have a sick kid. If you have sick time or personal time be prepared to use it. Even though you are working you may only get a good 3 hours of work done. So be honest and either make up the time after the kids are asleep or use sick hours to make up the time you lost working.
Try to isolate the sick child
If you have multiple kids at home try to keep them away from the other kids. Most illnesses are contagious and your doctor should let you know how contagious it is. But even to be safe it is a good idea to find an area of the house to isolate the sick kids.
Now, this doesn’t mean you are excluded from being with them. They will want you close by. If you have to wear a mask when around them then do that to help cut down on the chance that you will catch whatever illness they may have.
And you may want to really make sure your spouse is isolated. This will be hard because they will want mommy. But if you and your spouse get sick also at the same time then who is going to take care of the kids?
Make sure and take care of yourself
Make sure and take care of your own body and health while caring for sick kids. Make sure you are eating right and continue to take your own medicine or multivitamins. Wash your hands often after you have been in close contact with your sick kid.
As parents, we have a tendency to focus solely on a sick kid and not think about our own health. This leaves us susceptible to getting sick ourselves and then you are in real trouble trying to take care of a sick child while still being sick.
If mom is at home
In some situations, mom may be able to stay at home. Now while mom is home make sure you are taking care of her. Follow up and see if she needs anything. If you don’t cook offer to go pick up some take-out food so she doesn’t have to worry about cooking.
If she needs you to do a load of laundry or do some dishes then take care of it for her. Make sure she can focus on comforting your child and not have to do multiple jobs in the house.
Give her a break if needed. Maybe if she has been stuck at home all day let her go out and get a breather away from the sick kid and you can step up and take the lead for a little while. Just make sure her mental health is in good shape.
Having a sick person in your home is never fun. And having a sick kid is even worse. When they feel bad you don’t want to do anything but take away any pain they feel or any discomfort they feel. But sometimes you just have to wait and let their own immune system take care of it.
Just remember to keep them comfortable and have the necessary supplies on hand. If you are stuck at home and can’t get out to get the needed supplies you need, see if you can have them delivered or have a family member or friend bring them to you.
And once again if you have any doubts call your doctor. Doctors are there to help and provide guidance to help your child get better.
Have any other helpful advice for dads when their kids are sick? Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page.