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What Should My Child Eat and Drink When They Are Ill?

    Sometimes children can feel under the weather and don’t want to eat and drink as much as normal. Firstly, try not to worry as it’s quite normal for us all! And children are pretty good at regulating themselves. But if you notice it’s taking time for them to get back to their usual intake try some of the following:

    • If they are reluctant to drink: foods often have a high fluid content so think ice lollies, custard, yoghurt, soup, ice-cream
    • If they can manage drinks ok but food is an effort: offer some high energy fluids like hot chocolates, milkshakes, smoothies, use full fat milk and add extras such as cream or ice cream
    • If they can manage mouthfuls only: offer high energy foods that you know they normally can’t resist. This is a time when they may need a little extra to fight the bugs and you can reintroduce those healthy eating patterns when they are feeling more like themselves. You can explain this concept to them so they know this is an interim measure and won’t expect Nutella and waffles all day, everyday in the future!
    • Add some extras to theirs. If it’s mashed potato, add a little more butter, if it’s pasta add cream cheese to a tomato sauce

    Always keep an eye on your child’s fluid intake.

    Keeping hydrated is really important. If they are drinking less, having drier nappies / passing less urine or have other signs of dehydration (see below), then they should be reviewed by a doctor. Keep offering fluids little and often. There is no correct fluid to give to your child – you can try rehydration salts from the pharmacy (Dioralyte) but sometimes children prefer drinks they are familiar with.

    Signs to look out for to visit a GP or if more urgent care is needed:

    • If your child is drinking significantly less than normal and not passing as much urine as you would usually expect.
    • If their tongue and lips look dry
    • If your baby’s soft spot (fontanelle) feels as though it is sunken or dips down
    • If your child is very lethargic / sleepy
    • If your child’s eating is not picking up even after an acute illness has passed

    See our top-tips article about looking after an unwell child:

    My Child is Ill – What Should I Do?

    Please note, information articles are not a substitute for direct medical advice. If you have any concerns, please seek personalised advice from a doctor.