Our five year old is sick. Even though he is our eighth child I still occasionally have the same fear well up inside me that I had when I was a new mother of one.

I find myself wondering, “What if it’s something terminal? What if this is all the time I get with him?”

It’s easy to read the pioneer accounts of high infant and child mortality rates and think, “Oh it was more common then. They had fewer expectations for their children.”

But this isn’t so.  God made every mother to bond and love each child as though it were her only one.  I do think of those mothers of long ago who lost many children to illness. Did they have a deeper longing for heaven after losing a little one? How they must be rejoicing now!

When your child is sick it is good to know what has traditionally been used to help the body heal. We modern mothers have access to many new treatments, drugs and even newly discovered herbs but we can learn something from traditional nursing techniques that our grandmothers used to ease discomfort in their sick children.

Remember this axiom;  water puts out fire so sponging a feverish child with tepid water (never cool or cold which will shock the body) will help to lower temperature. A child who is not too weak can take warm to tepid baths throughout the day being carefully and quickly wrapped to avoid a chill. My own mother often patted me down gently with a warm, wet washcloth during my many childhood fevers and I remember how soothing it felt.

Remember that water puts out fire also works internally so keep the child hydrated by sipping lemon water or something flavored (as long as they can keep it down).

If a child is vomiting or unable to keep liquids down an old-fashioned remedy is a very small amount of warm water given rectally. Often the body can retain liquid taken this way. A baby bulb syringe (the kind you get in the hospital to clear out a newborn’s nose) works well to give an enema.

Never let the child become dehydrated because this causes the fever to accelerate dangerously.

If a child has a fever that comes down quickly when you gently wash them with tepid water, the fever is not dangerously out of control. Washing a child every 20 minutes or so and immediately covering well with warm blankets helps the body not become overly weakened from fighting the fever.

Fever is necessary to burn up toxins and waste matter in the body so it is better to control the fever with water inside and out than constantly giving tylenol or other over the counter drugs.

Bone broths are very nourishing for children as they recover. Every mama should learn to cook them for her family. All ages from toddlers to the elderly can benefit from a healthy broth.

When the body is ill it needs to rest. A very sick child needs quiet, hushed voices and a subdued environment. A recovering child may be allowed to join the family by resting on the couch near everyone for short periods of time.

There are many other “old fashioned” nursing techniques that both comfort and heal our sick loved ones.

What do you do when your children are sick?