Looking after a Sick Child


We were just arriving home from a day out, and a quick visit to my brother’s house yesterday when Flea announced she had a headache.

“I feel a bit sick,” she said, before unleashing The Exorcist on our bathroom.

I don’t deal well with sick children.

As I may have mentioned before I am completely a teeny bit neurotic when it comes to health issues. This otherwise slight personality quirk is – frankly –  out of control when it comes to my child. And the GREAT news for parents of babies and toddlers is that your mad, over-protective habits don’t go away as your child gets older.

Oh no. Despite the fact that my child is now in senior school, I can still rattle off the five most dangerous foods for choking (popcorn, grapes, carrots, hot dogs, peanuts).  Oh, and I still haven’t met a grape I didn’t slice lengthwise.

So I put Flea to bed in my bed last night. This allowed me to wake every couple of hours and put my freezing cold hands on her toasty little abdomen to check she was still breathing. “Is that her breathing, or my hand moving? Better give her a little shake to be sure… oops, she’s breathing. It’s okay, darling, go back to sleep.” 

“Hang on, aren’t the early symptoms of meningitis headache and vomiting?”  So I find myself rummaging under the duvet trying to judge if her feet are cold (another potential meningitis marker). Of course her feet are cold, it’s zero degrees outside. Also my hands are quite cold. And now she’s awake again, wondering why I’m taking her socks off.

Oh God, I’m the World’s Weirdest Mum. My name is Sally and I’m a neurotic weirdo. Is there a support group I should be attending for this?

Like I said, I don’t handle sick children well.

My Mum is amazing in a crisis. The bigger the disaster, the more calm she is. If you lose a phone, she’ll be sympathetic and horrified. If you lose an arm, she’ll tell you to calm down, stop panicking, and think through your best response.

I did not inherit this gene.

Fortunately, today Flea has woken up feeling fine, and I’m going to try giving her some toast in a little while. She should be back at school tomorrow (just a day late).

I hope so, at any rate. I’m not sure I can cope with the stress.


PS, if you take nothing else away from this post, do be aware of the symptoms of meningitis in children, which can include: 

  • Fever
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain (aching arms and legs)
  • Dislike of bright light
  • Confusion
  • Stiff neck
  • Pale skin
  • A rash that doesn’t fade under pressure (this is often the LAST symptom to present, don’t wait for it if you suspect meningitis)




12 thoughts on “Looking after a Sick Child”

  1. I have almost routinely stood checking M’s breathing every day since he was born. Clara used to ban me from checking more than twice in a night as I used to wake him. I have scared him several times by standing over him watching his chest rise and fall and have convinced myself he is warm but getting colder therefore not breathing right.

    It will never go. I think I get worse as the years go by.

  2. Thank goodness she’s okay – I can understand you being worried. I’m terrible – I’m quite unsympathetic towards adults in most situations, but (as long as it’s not just a cold) with kids I’m quite the opposite and end up panicking something awful is happening! Thankfully, I seem to have got a hold on what’s serious enough for a doctor’s appointment – as they’re like gold dust!

    1. I think with kids is that they can’t really process what’s happening to them in the same way as adults can so your over-protective side goes into TOTAL overdrive.

  3. Don’t despair– maybe it’s saving Flea from the bad stuff! I am one of those extraordinarily calm people in a crisis. I feel super anxious on the inside, but on the outside no one can tell. I’m steady and make fast, smart decisions and keep my wits about me… until about 2 days after the crisis is fully resolved and then I fall into a gelatinous mess on the floor and shake. I have four kids and I can count the number of earaches (2), stomach bugs (maybe a half dozen) and flu (0) in the last 13 years since I’ve been a parent. But last year one of my sons did have meningitis (thank God viral) and one once had a virus that spread to his cerebellum, and one has Type 1 diabetes and celiac and one once had a migraine so awful he couldn’t recognize me for 6 hours and the doctors thought he was having a stroke. My sister, who also has 4 kids, has never had anything worse than a broken leg to deal with. She is a panicker. She says my kids only get exotic illnesses because I can handle it. I think I’m going to start being a worry wart soon so we can get something run-of-the-mill!

  4. We had a day of this sort of virus a couple of weeks ago. DD did The Exorcist thing in the little bathroom after which I cleaned her up and also put her to bed in my bed before thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting the bathroom. For the next few days she avoided that bathroom and about four days later she asked me, “when are you going to clean up that sick in the little bathroom?”

  5. I had a similar experience during the Christmas holidays, find it so hard dealing with vomiting of children but nonetheless, your love for them makes you forget all that especially when the responsibility lies with only 1 single parent.

  6. In our house it’s 99% my job to deal with the poorly one. Stripping beds, Lifting them towards the toilet hoping to contain the projectile! Thing is the kids seem to have associated this with “Daaaad? I have a problem” Which at the moment I’m fine with but I’m dreading it when my GIRLS grow older.
    However I’ll also add that we are a little tough on our two.

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