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"Mommy, I think I am going to be sick." My nine year old, Allyson said this morning shortly after 2:30 a.m. Uh-oh, here we go again. I spent all day yesterday cleaning up after her 5 year old sister, Joslyn. Sometimes I wonder, "why are my kids so great at sharing?!"

The truth is, no parent wants their child to get sick, ever. But if you are a "cup's half full" kind of person you will be happy to hear that each time your child gets a little cold or a mild case of diarrhea or vomiting their bodies will start to recognize the illness and learn to fight it off more quickly the next time.  

It is important to point out here that I am NOT talking about the "Flu". The flu or influenza causes sore throats, runny noses and aches and pains. Rarely will influenza cause stomach issues.

So, what is the best way to care for your little one when she is sick with a stomach bug? I went straight to the source and asked my nine and five year olds as it was fresh in their minds.

Top 10 List of Ways to Feel Better When You Have the Stomach Bug

A Child's Perspective with Additional Comments from their Mom

10. Watch TV – (notice this just barely makes the top 10)

Normally I would never suggest you turn on the television for a big chunk of the day, however, watching TV or reading a book will help your child relax. Your child isn’t being lazy – they are letting their body repair the damage caused by the virus or bacteria.

9. Take a Nap

Getting plenty of rest will help your child's body heal. Allyson hasn't moved off the couch and keeps asking me why she is so tired. One reason is that she has been up all night, the other is that her body is working hard to fight the illness, even though she is just laying there.

8. Eat Crackers and Chicken Noodle Soup

These are staple items to serve when you have a sick one at home.  The BRAT diet – bananas, rice, applesauce and toast are known for being pretty bland which means that ideally they will not upset tummies further.  Other items you could serve include yogurt and apple slices. Foods should be introduced slowly. You will want to make sure your child is choosing whether to eat or not, never force them to eat, they will know when they are ready.   

7. Keep a Bowl Next to Me

Joslyn disagreed with this one stating that seeing the bowl made her tummy rumbly. The bottom line is if you don't want to clean up the sofa, floor, car or other area your child may be when they get sick – provide a small trash can or bowl and let them know what to do with it should the need arise.

6. Be Calm

I am fairly sure that your little one will not feel like running around the block if they have a stomach bug. I also know that they will not want to have siblings or friends running around the house playing and being loud when they feel so crummy. Keep the noise level down, this will make it easier for your child to get some much needed rest.

5. Have Mommy Rub Your Back and be with you When you are Sick in the Bathroom

I remember my mom rubbing my back or stomach after I was sick, and I do the same for my girls – and they appreciate it enough to include it in their top 10 list! There is a certain power in human touch. Just being with someone, feeling that you are not alone when you feel so terrible makes it just bearable enough to get through.  I encourage you all to be there for your child when they are sick.  

4. Have a Toy to Snuggle With

Most parents cannot stay sitting on the couch or lying in bed all day when their children are ill. When you are not available to snuggle make sure your child has a special toy or blanket to cuddle with.

3. Drink Pedialyte or Water

The biggest danger with a stomach bug is dehydration. Offer plenty of fluids. Pedialyte and water are your best bet with Pedialyte being the best choice because it replaces important electrolytes (salt and minerals) lost during diarrhea and vomiting. Sports drinks boast electrolyte replacement, but is not recommended for younger children. Do not offer milk, orange juice or drinks with caffeine. These beverages could upset your child's tummy more than it already is.

2. Wear Your PJ's All Day and Make a Bed on the Sofa

Your little ones are going to want to be close to you, but should be kept comfortable too.  

1. Snuggles with Mommy and Daddy

Your child will be most comfortable in the comfort of your arms, in your home, surrounded with their belongings.  Make it a priority to get them home or keep them home when they are ill. Keep them home for at least 24 hours after they have stopped vomiting, the diarrhea has stopped or they are fever free without medicine.  Please do not take them out when they are ill, they will spread the illness to others as it is highly contagious.

A few additional thoughts:

If your child is running a low grade fever try to skip the medicine. Medicine can upset the stomach further.

Most importantly – WASH YOUR HANDS and have your child wash their hands. These types of illnesses are spread fecal to oral. Gross, but that is what happens. Wash hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds every time you use the restroom, before and after meals and any other time you can!

For more information about the spread of germs and hand washing, read Dr. Meyer's article Germs are Everywhere

This advice is from the mouth of babes – and their mom, who has had plenty of practice over the years taking care of them!

Jaclynn Foged

The UNL Learning Child Team

Jaclynn, is an Extension Educator on The Learning Child Team. Jaci holds a B.S. Degree in Early Childhood Education/Child Development from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Doane College in Crete, Ne. Jaci provides training to childcare providers and families in the Southeast area of Nebraska. Jaci has over 15 years of experience working with children birth to 8 years of age, including 8 years of center based childcare director experience. ...

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