It is never a fun time when your child becomes ill. Children will get on average 10 colds a year, usually before kindergarten, then they have immunity built up in their systems. That is a lot of days per year to be sick. Sometimes it can be a mystery as to what is best for your child when they are sick. Especially if all of a sudden they stop eating.
Loss of appetite, not wanting normal foods they love, lack of interest in eating and even flat out refusal to eat are all things you may experience when your child is sick. Don’t panic. Your child needs energy to fight off their sickness, which they get from food, but they also need energy to digest that food, so it is kind of a balancing act as to what is best for them and their bodies.
The main thing to focus on when your child is sick is keeping them hydrated. Hydration is more important than actual food at this point. Keep them sipping on something throughout the day if that’s all you can get out of them. At this point drinking is what is key no matter what it is. That means if your child wants a milkshake, let them slurp down a milkshake. Other options could be juice, milk, formula, water, smoothies, popsicles, caffeine free tea, or warm broth. If they aren’t too happy about any of those choices, offer a whole bunch of hydration foods. These are foods like applesauce, yogurt, cucumber, tomatoes, zucchini, watermelon, cantaloupe, melon, oranges, pineapple, and grapes.
Frequent Small Meals
For meals it may be better to try offering small frequent meals as opposed to large meals. This may help your child not refuse all food if they are overwhelmed by so much on their plate. Smaller meals will also be easier for your little one to digest. As much as possible try to keep your eating routine in place. Have them sit at the table when they usually would so that part of their routine is normal. This keeps their minds thinking that it is time to eat since they are at the table if that is what they are used to. Don’t be discouraged if they just pick at their plate and don’t eat everything. Just continue to monitor their hydration and know eventually their appetite will come back. Their appetite coming back can take longer than you think. Even after all the symptoms are gone and their energy is back it can take even longer for their full appetite to return.
Other foods that are good to try are the BRAT or CRAM foods. BRAT meaning banana, rice, applesauce, and toast is a bland diet allowing for easily digestible foods that are easy to eat. CRAM is cereal, rice, applesauce, and milk. The cereal and milk in this diet helps boost your child’s protein intake that they may not be getting while sick, as well as being easy on the tummy. Dairy does not make more mucus. It has the potential to thicken mucus that is already made, but it does not increase the amount of mucus produced.
If your child only wants one thing while they are sick, for a few days let them have that one thing. Then after a few days start adding in other options to their meals. Being sick for a few days usually will not make your child into a picky eater. The important thing is that they are eating and hydrating with whatever they choose. Don’t worry about your child not getting enough Vitamin C when they are sick. A toddler can achieve their daily need of Vitamin C in any of the following; 2 strawberries, ½ small orange, 2 strips of red pepper, 2 tbsp broccoli, or 2 tbsp of kiwi.
If your child is suffering from diarrhea, you will want to focus on clear fluids, and electrolyte solution to help avoid dehydration. You will want to try a normal diet with binding foods such as banana or rice to help with things sticking in the tummy. Try to avoid juices and sugary foods if possible. With constipation prunes are your best friend. Either chop up a full prune for them to eat, or try prune juice either mixed with another juice to mask the flavor or in a smoothie. You can also find recipes of prune cookies, or no bake oat and prune bites to give your toddler. Other good constipation foods are apples, celery, and carrots.
For a fever your child may have little to no appetite at all, so you will want to beef up their meals and make them a little more calorically dense, by adding sauces, dips, or butter.
Warm beverages or cold smoothies are great for when your toddler has a sore throat.
Warm foods are also good when your child has a stuffy nose. The warmth from the beverage or food will act as a vaporizer and helps break up the mucus.
Natural remedies such as garlic, nature’s antibiotic, or honey if your child is over the age of one which has antimicrobial and antibacterial properties are also good things to add into your child’s diet when they are sick.
Hydration is key when your child is sick, it is so easy for a toddler or young child to become dehydrated. Push fluids as much as possible even if they are taking a few sips at a time that is better than nothing. Also try adding in hydration foods to help the body as well. Give your child time for their appetite to come back after being sick.
Children get on average 10 colds a year!