5 Survival Tips for Being Sick at Home With Kids

I have almost fond memories of being sick as a child - being waited on hand and foot by my parents, surrounded by pillows and blankets and watching hours of daytime television. Being sick as an adult is not nearly as fun. And being sick as a parent with a young child to watch is not fun at all. Last week I got sick, really sick, and as luck would have it my husband was on a 6-day business trip. It was a rough week, but here are 5 lessons I learned to help me out the next time.

Lesson 1: Stash some cash
This is something I always intend to do as a general rule, but once I spend it the first time I usually forget to replace it. I had no more than a few dollars in my wallet when I got sick and the ATM three blocks away felt like a mile (mostly because it involved getting myself and child dressed and semi-groomed). What would I have used the cash for? My fridge and pantry were poorly stocked (of course, right?) and on the very worst day I would have loved to have food delivered to my door. As it was, I didn't even have enough for a tip. And, when I finally admitted I needed to go to an Urgent Care it would have been much easier to have a car service pick me up on my curb. Instead I rummaged up a MetroCard and we took the bus.

Next time: $40 socked away in a place my husband and I will both remember

Lesson 2: Keep a can of soup and a bottle of ginger ale around
Ideally I'd always have a well-stocked fridge and pantry, especially when my husband is away, but that's just not always the case. The two things I want to have - a can of chicken soup and a bottle of ginger ale. If I'd kept more cash around (see above) I could have ordered in some homemade chicken soup (or asked a friend to bring some, see #5), but even canned soup can be a godsend when you're really down and out. In my case I had a sinus infection and two ear infections so soup would have been perfect. It's also one of the only things I want to eat after a stomach bug. Speaking of which, ginger ale is all I want when in the midst of a stomach bug and this should be easy enough to keep around with a little forethought.

Next time: A can of soup and bottle of ginger ale are on my shopping list this week to be put away for the next person in the household who gets sick.

Lesson 3: Keep your medicines updated
I thought our medicine cabinet was up to date, but boy was I wrong. Maxwell included decluttering the medicine cabinet in the 20/20 Home Cure and for good reason. Not only can you make space by getting rid of medicine that has expired, when you need medicine right now you may not have the presence of mind to check the expiration date or the wherewithal to trudge down to the drugstore to get something you don't have. I found that more than half our cold and sinus medicines were past their expiration dates (which is probably safe to use, but perhaps not as potent). More importantly, we had finished some medicine without replacing it. Dang.

Next time: I've already disposed of my out-of-date medicine and replaced all the basics, especially the non-drowsy versions.

Lesson 4: Now is the time to let the tv babysit your child
Did you ever see the movie The Sure Thing? When the two main characters, college students, find themselves without a place to sleep in a torrential rain storm during a crosscountry road trip, one of them realizes she has a credit card they could use for a hotel room:

Alison: I have a credit card!
Gib: You have a credit card?
Alison: I have a credit card!
Gib: [relieved] You have a credit card.
Alison: [suddenly crestfallen] Oh. My dad told me *specifically* I can only use it in case of an emergency.
Gib: [sarcastically] Well, maybe one will come up.

Even if you don't normally allow your child to watch tv (or very little of it) if ever there were a time to break that rule - this is it. If you can't find something or don't have cable (or a tv), try Hulu (I recommend Benji). If you have any special toys that you don't keep accessible all the time, pull those out. I had a cache of puzzles from the thrift store I'd planned on doling out very slowly, but those all came out in about two days. And that's okay. Remember, it's an emergency.

Next time: My dvr was pretty well stocked with Team Umi Zoomi episodes so I had this one covered. Whew!

Lesson 5: Call in the cavalry
Why is it that some people have a hard time asking for help? And by some people I mean me. I have plenty of friends and neighbors who would have been happy to lend a hand, pick up some food, run to the drugstore or take my son out to the playground, but I didn't want to bother them. This is perhaps the most important lesson to learn - bother them. Because it's probably not much of a bother and if the tables were turned I'd be more than happy to help them.

Next time: Get over it and phone a friend.

Here's to your health!

(Image: Carrie McBride)

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As Apartment Therapy's Family Editor, Carrie covers design and modern homelife with children. A lapsed librarian, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two kids and is in contention to break the record for most hours spent at the playground.