When toddlers are sick the energy and nutrients from a good meal can help their bodies fight off illness and help them feel better in general. Unfortunately getting a sick toddler to eat is next to impossible. How can you make the most of the times your sick toddler does eat? And what foods can you offer to help your toddler through his illness?
The good new is that missing a meal or two isn’t going to hurt your child. What is most important is that your toddler stays hydrated, which means you may need to come up with creative ways to get your toddler to take in fluids. This is especially important when your child is losing fluids (and electrolytes) secondary to the effects of a fever, nausea and diarrhea.
There are a number of ways that you can replace fluids in your sick toddler. Water, juice, popsicles, broth and jell-O are all good choices for replacing fluids and are usually well-tolerated by toddlers. If your child has a lot of vomiting and/or diarrhea, you may consider an electrolyte replacement drink (like PediaLyte). Sports drinks aren’t ideal for toddlers as they contain too much sugar and aren’t formulated to replace the electrolyte losses of children.
When Your Toddler is Vomiting
When your toddler is vomiting it can be difficult to gauge when to introduce foods and drinks and how to go about it without triggering a new episode. In general, a slow approach is the best. Again, this is one of those times in which it is important for your toddler to get fluids. Offering even a teaspoon or two of water or juice at frequent intervals is beneficial. If your toddler is very thirsty, it is better to give a popsicle or jell-O rather than allowing him to gulp down a glass of water, which may lead to another bout of vomiting. Wait at least a half-hour after your toddler vomits before offering anything else. This gives your child’s tummy the chance to calm a bit before it’s challenged again.
When you feel that it’s time to advance your toddlers diet beyond fluids keep in mind that bland, uncomplicated foods are easier to digest (dry toast, crackers) and less of a challenge to sick tummies.
One last bit of advice. When faced with a child who is vomiting, avoid giving them anything red to eat or drink. It is a little disconcerting to wonder if the red that your toddler is vomiting is blood or that popsicle she had two hours ago.
When Your Toddler Has Diarrhea
If your toddler has diarrhea there is a good chance that everything he eats will move so quickly through his intestinal tract that it will reappear in a relatively undigested form.
When your toddler does have diarrhea, be sure to limit those foods which can contribute to loose stools like high-fiber products, bran, fruit and fruit juice.
There are certain foods that can help slow diarrhea. The diet, commonly called the BRAT (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) diet introduces bulk to the diet and therefore also adds more bulk to the stool. These foods aren’t intended to be the only items in your toddler’s die t– they aren’t nutritionally whole — only as an addition to the diet address the diarrhea.
This is also a time in which you need to be mindful of fluid and electrolyte replacement for your toddler.
When Your Toddler is Congested
It is hard enough for adults to eat when congested, imagine the frustration for your toddler. You can help by keeping a cool mist humidifier in the room or taking your toddler into a steamy bathroom and using saline drops and a bulb syringe to clear the nasal passages. Have your child sit up to eat as congestion tends to worsen when lying down or immediately after lying down.
What About Chicken Soup?
Scientific research has actually proven that there are some beneficial properties of this home cooked remedy. Chicken noodle soup can actually clear congestion, reduce inflammation and ease breathing. It also serves as a source of fluids and, let’s face it, it’s just comforting.
Photo of soup courtesy of Luis Silveira/stock.xchng