With body aches, headaches, chills, and nausea, the flu can cause you to lose all appetite for food. This is especially of concern for mothers and fathers who wonder how to get their sick children to eat even the smallest bite of chicken noodle soup.
First, you know that this is not uncommon. "Expect to have a bad appetite for the duration of the flu symptoms and don't force food if you don't feel like it," said Mandy Layman, RD, a registered nutritionist with Nemours Children's Health System in Orlando, Florida.
Doesn't swallow bites
Liquids are a different matter, however. "Squeeze fluids," Ms. Layman told Medical Daily. "Encourage sips of water or pedialyte throughout the day." She also recommended foods that are "naturally moisturizing, such as soft fruits and vegetables that also contain vitamins and minerals". Ms. Layman shared that when she's sick she asks for homemade chicken noodle soup, adding that any broth-based soup is an excellent idea.
"I can only think of how exhausted it makes me when they are sick," said Kacie Barnes, a registered pediatric nutritionist in an interview with Medical Daily. "I think the worst is when you are sick at the same time as them and you try so hard to take care of them but barely have the energy to stand up and move." Ms. Barnes is also the founder of Mama Knows Nutrition.
The mother of a 2 year old and a 5 year old has a clever parenting hack to keep kids hydrated. “I even set a timer on my phone every 20 minutes to offer them a drink of water. It's easiest to keep them hydrated if this is how you stay in the know. "If her patients refuse water at home, she offers juice with ice and fruit as a snack." They usually like applesauce, pears or canned peaches – packed in juice, not in syrup – when they are sick. "
Food is served?
If your picky patient is going to eat, both dietitians had some excellent suggestions.
"Meals can be hit or missed," said Ms. Barnes. "I usually stick to bland foods as these are more appealing, like toast, pasta, boiled potatoes, plain chicken, and boiled carrots." She serves snacks all day and sometimes goes for a smoothie or milkshake when her kids are ready to sip on them. But she prefers to provide ice pops that are calming and moisturizing. For ice cream treats, she suggests limiting them to one serving.
Ms. Layman also warned about ice. "Foods and drinks high in sugar like ice cream, fruit juices, and regular sports drinks should be limited if [your child] has diarrhea, as it can make the situation worse," she said. She also suggested staying away from caffeinated drinks that can dry out.
When to worry
Parents should watch out for signs of dehydration. Ms. Layman described symptoms as "a dry or sticky mouth, few or no tears when crying, eyes that look sunken, urinating less, and / or dry, cool skin".
The duration is also significant. "A few days of poor appetite are very normal with the flu," said Ms. Barnes. "If it took about a week or more, I would see the pediatrician to make sure everything is okay."
The path to recovery
Even if everyone is feeling better, the job may not be over. "I often hear that parents struggle to get their children back on the right diet after an illness," said Ms. Barnes. "When you're back to normal energy and in your normal routine, just go back to serving meals and snacks as you normally would," she suggested. “You can tell them, 'You had ice cream for lunch when you were feeling really sick. But now that you are feeling better, you can eat other foods again, so lunch today is a sandwich. We will be having ice cream again soon. "
It is not uncommon for children or even adults to lose their appetite when they are sick. Avoid sugary foods or beverages containing caffeine, but offer children frequent snacks and promote hydration. Keeping a sick child hydrated is a big deal. So offer water, fruit juice, Pedialyte or even ice. If you are concerned, speak to your pediatrician.
And take care of your own health. "It's pretty much impossible to stay away from their germs when they're small because they sneeze on your face and wipe their snot all over you like you're just a giant handkerchief!" said Mrs. Barnes.
“I remember my daughter was sick once and I had to give a presentation to a large group that day. I only realized when I came home and changed afterwards that I had smeared her snot on my shoulder. Who knows what everyone in the audience was thinking! "