When your toddler gets the flu: A Survival Guide

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

It’s Winter here in sunny South Africa, aka cold and flu season. If, like me, you have a toddler that attends school, you are well aware of the rate of snot sharing that goes on and that the likelihood of your little Squish getting sick is exponentially increased. It’s basically inevitable. It sucks.

Our little guy just put us through a double stint: he was sick for a week, then well for a week(when I got sick) then sick for a week again. It’s been exhausting to say the least. He finally went back to school today (she says praying that there’s no new bug he plans to bring home and sprinkle around), and I feel like I’ve survived a zombie apocalypse – the current state of my house, and dark circled eyes will corroborate my sentiment.

But I survived! and you can too.

Below are my top tips for how to survive when your toddler gets the flu:


Toddlers are probably the busiest creatures on the planet (they give honey bees and ants a run for their money), so what the heck do you do with a toddler when riding bikes and playing outside are off the table?

  • Keep a set of special toys that they don’t see otherwise. This is one I discovered accidentally during bout 2 of the toddler snottiness. We got a Checkers Little Shop starter set free with our grocery shop. It kept Squish entertained for hours. It was new, it was fun, and it is now strewn all over my house (apocalypse remember). I’m going to pack up the pieces, mostly because the toy is too advanced for him, but also because it will be a great one to pull out next time he’s sick. I hope there is no next time, but the inevitability is there. It sucks.
  • Our Squish decided that his new favourite indoor game was wrestling mama on the bed (he’s become adept at pinning me down and licking my face – kids are gross). But even that was too much and made him have several hacking coughing fits. Then it hit me!  A good, old-fashioned Blanket Fort! You remember what it was like making one of these as a child. Strategically placed dining chairs with several large blankets or sheets draped carefully over them. I must warn you though to go in with oodles of patience if your kiddo is 3 or younger. Ours didn’t quite get that he’s not supposed to stand up into the sheets and twirl it around his body like a maypole. I had to remake the fort approximately 1 million times, but he had such a jol. And it was fairly calm play, indoors away from the Winter chill. An overall win. Fort Building is going to stay on the list of fun things to do even when he’s not sick, and who knows, maybe someday Squish will get the idea that it’s a hideout and not an elaborate toga draping mechanism.
  • Disney classics. My son has developed a fondness for Disney’s Aladdin. He even sings along in some places (heart explodes!). Nothing beats Disney for entertaining kids. Yes, too much screen time is bad for them, bla bla bla. Besides being a great opportunity for delicious couch snuggles with my tiny human, it gave me a few minutes to prep dinner each day, but most importantly I got a few minutes alone. My sanity is crucial to my child’s survival, so Aladdin it is. Every. Day.  It’s not forever and when he’s better we’ll be back to obstacle courses and chasing each other outside.

Medicating a Terror

My child will NOT swallow any form of medication unless he’s strapped down and essentially drowned in it. He has also learnt that if he blows raspberries the medicine will fly out of his mouth and all over me in a sticky shower of disgustingness. I can’t blame him for spitting it out, they all taste horrific

Why haven’t the pharmaceutical companies turned all children’s medications into delicious gummy treats? Why do they insist on torturing parents the world over with thick syrups and grainy, ashy chewables?

The medicine wrestle/shower is not a task I wish to take on regularly, let alone every 6-8 hours as prescribed by my healthcare professional, so I am always on the hunt for tastier, easier alternatives

  • A standard in our house are A. Vogel’s Echinaforce® Echinacea drops. These babies taste like the sweat of a thousand walruses swirled together with cactus juice. Seriously, they are disgusting on their own, BUT apple juice somehow magically makes the taste almost disappear. So I loaded up all of my Squish’s  sippies with his special appletini, which also included an immune booster and some probiotics. Whether it helped or not, who knows, but at least it gave me the feeling of being proactive in helping him heal, and not once did he mouth-shower me with it. I call that a win
  • A best buy for us has been our home nebulizer. If you don’t own one of these puppies yet, get one. Our little man had Croup a couple months ago and I didn’t have anything other than saline to put in the nebulizer, after our 3 day hospital stint his pediatrician gave us a prescription for Adrenaline and a corticosteroid in case. I’m usually pretty crunchy, but those two things literally save his life and are always in our fridge. So now if we hear the cough starting we nebulise him before it gets to the serious throat-closing bark stage. But just the saline in the neb will help to ease the dry scratchiness if you don’t want to go the medicine vapour route. Our entire household has used the nebulizer over the last month, it really is worth the investment. Some also have a Nappi Code so you can probably claim it through your medical aid.


  • Accept that your already fussy eater is going to be even fussier. Seriously, my kid lived off yogurt and puffed corn for two weeks. I realise that healthy food makes a healthy body, but when you have a sore throat that feels like you’ve swallowed sandpaper and shards of glass, easy eats are the way to go. I’m also not going to wrestle and argue with him 3-6 times a day. Most of the time I was just glad that he was eating something. I kept telling myself that it won’t be forever, and soon he’ll be back to sipping his kale smoothie and wolfing down his moringa sprinkled roasted veggies. Just kidding! I have a toddler remember, I’m just crossing my fingers he’ll go back to eating noodles and nuggets with the occasional sliver of banana
  • Squish still breastfeeds, even though my nipples have begged him to stop. So we keep doing that when he’s sick. He stays hydrated and it helps him sleep. The skin to skin is really good for fevers too. So if you boob, boob on, if not, scroll on.


Paha! Do toddlers ever rest?

This is more for you, the parent. Rest when you can. Take the help when it’s offered. Raising kids is no easy feat, nevermind when they’re snot-filled and mouth-showering meds all over the place. You’re only human, a super one at that, but find the time to take a break otherwise the zombie-ness will catch you. If you’ve got no one to help you, then hire the help. It’ll be worth it. I promise.

What are some of your best tips for surviving the house-arrest that is having a sick toddler?

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