It can break your heart to see your child feeling lousy when they're sick, whether it’s the flu, strep throat, or just a run-of-the-mill cold. You can’t wave a magic wand and send their symptoms packing, but you can help them feel better. Here are a few ways to make your child more comfortable when they're under the weather.

Help them rest. Even when they’re not sick, young children need a lot of sleep -- at least 10 hours a night for school-aged kids. When a cold or the flu strikes, they may need even more. If your child has long given up their afternoon nap, you may have trouble convincing them to stay in bed. Remind them that rest will help them feel better faster, and try letting them lie down while you read a book, listen to calming music, or play a quiet game together.

Keep them hydrated. Sick kids may have little interest in eating or drinking, but you should still keep offering fluids for them to sip throughout the day. Young children are more likely to get dehydrated when they’re sick than adults are. In addition to water, you can try electrolyte solutions, broth, or Popsicles -- which may feel extra soothing to a kid with a sore throat.

Ease a stuffy nose safely. Decongestants aren’t safe for kids under age 4. For younger kids, try a saline nose spray or drops, which can help clear out nasal passages and keep them moist. For babies, a suction tool like a nasal bulb can also help draw out extra mucus. You might also try putting a cool mist humidifier in your child’s room. The added moisture can loosen congestion and help them breathe easier.

Cuddle up. Illness can be scary for some kids, especially if they have symptoms like vomiting or diarrhea. Cuddling and holding your child can help them feel less anxious and more relaxed and secure. It may even help them sleep better. If you’re breastfeeding, your baby may want to nurse more often for comfort. Try propping your child in a more upright position during feedings to help them breathe easier.

Distract, distract, distract. Sure, you could always park them in front of the TV for a  cartoon marathon. But a little creativity might help keep your child more entertained -- and distracted from their symptoms. Try playing “doctor” for sick dolls and stuffed animals, making a soothing treat like Popsicles or warm tea together, or even taking a short walk around the block for some fresh air. 

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