Monday, 7 May 2012

How to get sleep even during a child's illness & what medicines to give when?

How do you console a crying child with a temperature? How do you revitalise a child running a temperature, but who is otherwise absolutely fine?

How do you ensure a temperature doesn't keep a child awake at a time when sleep would be the best thing to help them recover?  How do you do all this without appearing at the doctors office at the first sign of every sniffle?

Every mother I know has a stock of Calpol in the cupboard. Most also have Calprofen. I know we do. But I still go through a debate with myself before I dish out a dose.

Should I be reverting to medicine this quickly? Will they build up a resistance? Could they cope without it? All the questions that you answer one way when you have the luxury of debating it without a weeping child burning up in your arms, but of course, when it comes to it, you dish out that dose pretty quickly.

And so it then becomes a question of dosage and timing. Which to give and when to give it. It took a while for us to work out that you can give both at the same time. Calpol being for pain relief, Calprofen being an  anti-inflammatory. But if you literally give them at the same time, you then have a 4-6 hour window where they are not allowed any more medicine. After 3 hours this can be a problem.

So we tend to alternate.  Calprofen with meals (as required); at 6.30am, 12noon and 6pm. Calpol in between at 9.30am if needed, 2.30 if needed and, in order to ensure we get our sleep at the same time they do, we gently wake them at around 10.30pm to give a dose.

It's this 10.30pm dose that saves our sanity when they are unwell. It means that we get a good batch of sleep ourselves and if we're lucky until 6am. If we skip this dose they tend to wake at 3am; and I don't cope well with 3am wake-ups.  It is seriously detrimental to my ability to calmly nurse them better.  Particularly in the summer when, after sitting with them for half an hour you suddenly hear the birds start singing!

Last night I forgot. My daughter was running a slight temperature, and had swollen tonsils, but was generally fine and running around playing.  She had some medicine at 2.30pm, as she became very hot fairly suddenly;  but then we forgot to do anymore as she seemed fairly well. Of course, at 3.30am this morning she woke up, crying, very hot and with swollen tonsils that were hurting (I could tell by the laboured swallowing). A quick dose of Calprofen was required, but of course I had to sit with her for quite a while to wait for it to start it's work enough for her to fall asleep.

Whilst the Calpol and Calprofen combination works well for things like sore throats and temperatures; (where they are generally fine, but need help fighting something off) I find that the old fashioned cold, with it's runny nose and subsequent coughing, can be stopped just enough for your child to get a good nights sleep with one of these; Karvol, Olbas Oil or Vicks VaboRub. 

The choice depends on symptoms.  With a blocked up nose that needs clearing, Olbas oil works well.  For a runny nose that needs stemming, Karvol works well.  To ease the congestion and tickling at the coughing stage, Vicks Vaborub (rubbed on their feet - yes, I know it's weird, but it works) is our choice.

And did I get back to sleep last night?  As is typical of these kind of nights, the 5 year old then woke up having had a bad dream. I got back into bed at nearly 5am. It's lucky I have a lovely hubby who gave me a surprise lie in this morning in thanks for getting up with the children in the night!  You can't plan for bad dreams unfortunately!

Click here for tips on settling a child to sleep at night.

Please note: the advice here is in no way intended as a substitute for medical advice.  If an appropriate dose of medicine doesn't bring your child's temperature down within an hour, or indeed if they are obviously very unwell, you should seek medical advice.  The advice presented here is purely for those situations where the child is generally fine, but is fighting a slight temperature and occasionally needs assistance with that.


  1. A really informative post. I think some parents worry about give their children medicine and just swoop off to the doctor at the first sniffle, as you said.

    1. Thank you. I used to be particularly bad at that with my first. But I think you get more confident in your ability to know when it's necessary.

      Much more laid back with the second; and I think she's more laid back as a result.


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