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5 Nutrition Tips When Your Child is Fighting an Illness

5 Nutrition Tips When Your Child is Fighting an Illness

Posted by Tori Schmitt, MS, RDN, LD on Feb 16th 2021

A runny nose, a loud cough, a hoarse voice…these are just a few of the signs that tell you that your little one isn’t feeling his or her best. And it can be hard on both the parents and child when dealing with a cold or flu. So, whether it is an acute illness or an infection, the first thing you’ll want to do is book an appointment with your child’s healthcare provider right away. After that, you’ll want to be able to provide the best care and support to your little one's health and nutrition. Keep reading to learn what you can do to nurse your child back to health.

Top Tips to Support Your Child When They’re Feeling Ill:

Focus on fluids.

When your little one isn’t feeling well, taking in enough fluids can be a challenge. A sore throat or congested nose could make it difficult for a child to swallow. Vomiting and diarrhea might also make it hard for them to keep down important fluids to keep their systems running properly. In other words, it could be easy for them to get dehydrated and for their electrolytes to get off-balance (especially if they’re having digestive issues). But there are some steps you can take to help prevent these issues:

Offer fluids with electrolytes.

Drinking fluids with electrolytes can help restore hydration, which can be especially important if your child experiences diarrhea, vomiting, or dehydration. And while your little one might enjoy the taste of something sweet, try to refrain from serving juices and sodas, which may actually worsen – instead of improve – diarrhea. 2

Offer fluids at a beneficial temperature.

Ultimately, serving a beverage at a temperature your child prefers might be the best way to ensure he or she drinks enough. That said, certain temperatures of liquids might provide functional benefits. For example, fluids (especially warm fluids) may help thin nasal secretions – meaning, it might help clear up your little one’s stuffy nose. 3 And frozen fluids may help soothe a sore throat (appropriate for children 1 year of age or older).

Focus on optimal foods for your child.

It can be typical for your child to want to eat fewer solid foods when they feel ill. Remember that this is only temporary! In the meantime, focus on nutritious energy boosters like breastmilk and formula or other nutrient-rich liquids if your child is old enough to consume them, including PediaSmart® Dairy and PediaSmart® Pea Protein , milks, homemade smoothies, and pureed soups. Mashed or pureed sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, pumpkin, cantaloupe, mango, and other vegetables and fruits can offer immune supportive nutrients like beta carotene and vitamin C to help support your child on their way to feeling better.

For toddlers and young children with a sore throat, consider offering honey.

While experts recommend that young children avoid added sugars, including honey, it turns out that honey may provide some specific benefits when given to your child in the short term. 4,5 According to guidelines shared by the American Academy of Pediatrics, honey “works as a homemade cough medicine” to help thin nasal secretions and loosen a cough. 5 Please caution though, honey should not be used until a child is at least 1 year old.

Remember to take care of yourself, too.

Illnesses and infections are often spread from family member to family member. While you care for your little one to ensure they are getting proper nutrition, remember to care for yourself as well. An adult’s immune system can be supported with nutrients including vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, and probiotics. 6 Choose foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, dairy foods, and lean proteins to help ensure that you’re eating pattern is full of a wide variety of vitamins and minerals to support your health.

As always, if your child’s condition worsens and you think your child needs to be seen by a professional, make sure to give your pediatrician a call to schedule an appointment.

How does your family respond to illnesses and infections with nutrition? Do you have a story to share about how  Nature’s One products helped your child feel better? Send us your stories and nutrition questions to dietitian@naturesone.com, or by adding your comment to the discussion below. We’d enjoy hearing from you!

Thanks for reading!

-Tori

References:

  • 1.Lazzerini M, Wanzira H. Oral zinc for treating diarrhea in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016(12) CD005436
  • 2.Kleinman RE, Greer FR. Oral Therapy for Acute Diarrhea. Pediatric Nutrition. 8th ed. American Academy of Pediatrics; 2020:815-825.
  • 3.Saketkhoo K, Januszkiewicz A, Sackner MA. Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance. Chest. 1978;74(4):408-410. doi:10.1378/chest.74.4.408
  • 4.U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 . 9th Edition. December 2020. Available at DietaryGuidelines.gov.
  • 5.Schmitt B. Care Advice – Colds. Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC. American Academy of Pediatrics | Children's Cold: Signs & Symptoms. Published 2020.
  • 6.Ellis E. How to Keep Your Immune System Healthy. EatRight. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventi... Published March 2020.