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Coping With an Acute Illness in Children: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Finding out that your child has a sudden (acute) illness can be very hard. Getting sick can be scary. It can also disrupt your child's life.

The most important thing is to deal with the illness and get healthy again. If school or other activities have to be put on hold while your child gets treatment, that is okay.

Some acute illnesses can become chronic, which means that they last for a long time. Although this may not happen with your child's illness, it is best to be prepared for this and to know how to handle it. Talk to your doctor to find out as much as you can about the illness and how best to treat it.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

Treating the illness

  • Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Do not give your child two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
    • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 18. It has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Tell your doctor about any over-the-counter medicines your child takes. These medicines can cause problems when taken with other medicines.
  • Take all of your child's medicines to every doctor appointment, especially when you see a new doctor. This will help all of the doctors care for your child better.
  • Keep in touch with your doctor. The more informed you keep your doctor, the better he or she will be able to care for your child.
  • Have your child eat a balanced diet. Talk with your doctor about what type of diet may be best.
  • Make sure your child is drinking plenty of fluids. Children can get dehydrated more easily than adults when they have an illness.
  • Keep your child away from smoke. Do not smoke or let anyone else smoke around your child or in your house.
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest. Talk with your doctor if your child has trouble sleeping because of pain.

Keeping your life in order

Here are some tips on how to keep your life on track while your child gets better.

  • Make sure your child's school knows about the illness. Get school commitments taken care of or postponed. This will give your child the time and energy needed to treat the illness.
  • Keep your child's school or daycare informed about when your child will be able to return.
  • Talk with your provincial health plan or private insurance provider to make sure treatments are covered.

Questions to ask

  • Can the illness be cured? Can the illness become long-lasting (chronic)?
  • How will my child's lifestyle change once the illness is gone?
  • Does the illness run in families?
  • What types of treatment are available? Which treatment has the best success rate?
  • Are there any side effects?
  • What are the best and worst possible results of the treatment?

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.