Coping With Ill Children

21/11/2013 16:24 | Updated 22 May 2015

Coping with ill childrenAlamy

Does your child have the winter lurgy? It's horrible, isn't it? The stress. The sheet washing. The boredom. The nagging feeling that you will probably never leave the house again.

You live in a netherworld of Calpol and tissues and worry. You can't relax, or sleep, or switch off just in case you need to be on hand with a sick bucket or a soothing word. And the outside world? Fuggetaboutit. You are trapped – trapped forever watching talking aubergines on Mr Bloom's Nursery. Or it certainly feels that way.

Let's face it, someone may as well draw an 'X' on your door when your kid is sick. You are banished from society and play dates, and seen as a terribly irresponsible plague carrier if you so much as take them to the Co-op. Not that you'll ever get to the Co-op. The Co-op becomes a shimmering mirage, a Club Tropicana of shiny excitement (3 for 2 on Ambrosia rice pudding!) simply because it isn't your pox-ridden house. If only you could go to the Co-op, everything would be wonderful.

And if only they had the energy to be naughty and you could shout at them again. Go on – put my laptop in the oven – PLEASE! But no, normality is just out of reach. You're stuck waiting for your wilting wee flower to perk up, and they look so sad, it breaks your heart.


My son was ill with a long-running, weird virus and it was like being in Snot Jail.

Even though I knew it was just a winter bug, irrational maternal worry kicked in immediately. And when I wasn't worried about his raging fever, we were both bored or frustrated or extremely tired.

He got up at 6am every day (tiring) complaining of a sore head (worrying) made me watch back to back episodes of Pokemon (boring) and then lay drearily on the sofa with a hideous high temperature all day (frustrating, worrying, boring and tiring). The doctor provided a staggering insight: "He's got a virus. Give him Calpol."

Although he rallied, it carried on and off for a week, when he dramatically fainted while playing the Wii with his cousins, in the manner of a sickly urchin who had never seen a vegetable.

God knows what it must be like for parents of chronically ill children. You are heroes, each and every one of you. I can't cope – I get a glass out and press it against his skin and ring NHS Direct at the first sign of a sneeze.

The thing is, for modern parents with busy lives who are used to calling the shots and arranging the logistics, even mild illness brings everything crashing down. When your child is ill, you realise very quickly that you are NOT in control.

You can pride yourself on being the most proactive parent of the 21st Century, sculpting carrots into the face of Louis Pasteur or taking them to Mandarin classes, but as soon as they're ill – BOOM! – you're completely powerless.


All you can do is stand by and wait and mop up whatever hideous things come out of them, like a quivering Victorian nurse.


And there's never anything you can give a child, apart from paracetamol and ibruprofen. It's like going back to the Middle Ages, with wet towels and blankets and midnight vigils.

So if you're currently stuck in the house with a cranky kid and nothing but a little white plastic spoon as your weapon against the winter bugs, I salute you. Think of yourself as a warrior, waging warfare against the germs. Remember, you are not alone, even though it feels like it.

At any one time this winter, there are thousands of other parents like you trapped behind closed doors with their sickly bairns, telly on constantly, suffering broken nights. And I understand that you're going mental. It's enough to make you hallucinate.

A couple of days in the house with an ill child can turn even the strongest character into a dribbling wreck, mumbling the theme tune to Sooty, sampling a snifter of Calpol (quite nice, actually) and dreaming of the day when you can put on tights and lippy and go back to doing that quite important job thing that pays the bills.

But remember – one day, with any luck, they will get better and you'll be able to get some fresh air and present yourself to society. Just maybe not today. Think of it as an enforced duvet day, a chance to spend more time with your child, just with 50VIRTUAL-Gallery-132951%

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