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Feeding toddlers when sick: What to feed a fever

Toddlers are typically full of energy and giggles, so it can be really difficult for parents when their happy, boisterous, and active little ones start to feel under the weather. With cold and flu season in full swing, as well as the seemingly never-ending health pandemic, many parents are dealing with a toddler fever for the first time.

Although fevers are a pretty common occurrence in toddlers, especially if they’re in a daycare or preschool setting, they can still make your child pretty miserable. So, while you can’t make your child’s fever magically disappear, there are some foods you can give to help your little one feel better and keep that strength up. Here are some foods you should be giving to your feverish toddler as well as some that you may want to avoid.

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How common is it for toddlers to come down with a fever?

Although it can be scary when your toddler comes down with a fever, it’s pretty common. Nemours writes that one fever a month is pretty common for children of toddler age, especially if they are routinely around other children or older siblings, which increases the likelihood of exposure to germs and infections. Often, medication isn’t even needed and a fever can be treated with proper rest and nutrition.

Hydration is key

Just like with adults, keeping a sick toddler hydrated is one of the most important things you can do to help ensure recovery. A hydrated body helps to fight infection, so even if your toddler doesn’t want to sit and drink an entire glass of water at once, it’s important to always offer smaller sips of something throughout the day. What to Expect also suggests giving your toddler foods that are high in water content, such as soups or broths, applesauce, or small pieces of ripe cantaloupe or watermelon as a way to keep them hydrated.

BRAT diet

BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. According to Accelerated Urgent Care, these are foods that are perfect for a sick toddler because not only are they easy to digest but they also are more likely to calm your toddler’s stomach. Similarly, CRAM, or cereal, rice, applesauce, and milk are also great options because they have a higher fat and protein content than the BRAT option.

Fruit

Thanks to its natural sweetness, many toddlers love to eat fruit, which makes it a great food to give when they’re not feeling well. Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit, as well as berries, are great sources of vitamins and minerals and also a good source of water that can help keep your toddler hydrated. You can choose to give your toddler fruit juice, a frozen fruit bar, or softened fruit on its own to help them feel better when they have a fever. Little bites of fruit or sips of fruit juice may also be easier for your toddler to consume than heavier foods.

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Feed a fever

Although they may lose their appetite when they get sick, like many of us do, it’s important for toddlers to eat, even if they have a fever. Good nutrition will not only allow them to keep their energy up but will also help their body recover faster. This may be a time when house food rules get relaxed a bit. If your toddler would prefer to snack on whole wheat crackers and fruit juice throughout the day instead of sitting down for a meal, allow this. If the fever has caused a sore throat, you may want to offer a frozen popsicle or fruit smoothie.

Frequency

While you want to offer your toddler fluids often when they have a fever, you’ll also want to offer smaller meals or snacks often as well. Nestle suggests that small, frequent meals are ideal for any toddler suffering from a fever. Initially, toddlers should eat a small meal every two hours, followed by four-hour intervals as they begin to feel better. Focusing on foods high in calories and protein is ideal and can include nutritious broths, cereal with milk, soft fruits, boiled vegetables, and mashed curd rice as well as protein-rich foods like milk, eggs.

What to avoid

Although most experts agree that it’s important you feed your toddler whatever is asked for to ensure strength is kept up in case of fever, some foods should be avoided. Fried, fatty, spicy, and high-fiber foods should be avoided when your toddler is sick as they can be hard on the stomach. Nestle also suggests staying away from foods that have strong flavors or are made with a lot of oils and butter.

It can be heartbreaking to watch your toddler when they’re feeling sick, especially if your little one has a fever. Fortunately, most children will feel better in just a few days and a nutritious diet can help with that. If your toddler has a persistent fever that doesn’t go down after being treated with medication, or if 24 hours have passed since any food or drink has been consumed, you should consult your pediatrician.

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