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Why I Take my Sick Kids Outside

We’ve been a little down and out around here the past week or so.  The kids have been fighting fevers which has then translated into not sleeping well and therefore all of us stumbling through the day (or week) in a daze.  

As ANY parent knows, having sick kids simply isn’t fun. But just because kids are sick doesn’t mean they need to stay inside.

Why I Take my Sick Kids Outside

Sick Kids Need to Go Outside

While it’s easy to think that sick kids should just stay in and rest, there is usually no reason they can’t reap the benefits of fresh air, even with a cough or fever.

In fact, in most cases, spending time outside helps their ability to get well faster than any amount of couch time could.  

They breathe better, they “clear out their systems” better, they nap better and they whine a lot less.

Granted, we stay away from public parks or other kids to avoid spreading the “fun”, but playing at home in the yard (or even resting outside) is much better than indoor time with stale air.

Realities When Kids are Sick

Plain and simple, when kids are sick outdoor time isn’t going to be epic…and that’s ok.

It’s more about the fresh air than checking off your bucket list or getting to some destination. While it’s easy to be frustrated by this when you’re healthy and have plans, pushing them too hard physically often backfires and illnesses last longer.

Of course, there are times when being outdoors just isn’t possible for long stretches of time (think the miseries of a stomach flu).

However stomach bugs are a good opportunity to spend some time in a hammock, on the porch in a comfy chair or even just sitting outside for 15 minutes.

Nausea is usually alleviated just a little by fresh air and, again, getting out of that stale, germy air is always a benefit.

Give yourself AND your sick kids grace

Let’s be honest: More often than not, sick kids = grumpy kids. Give yourself AND them lots of grace to just be. Be outside, be together and be present.

We all need our mommy (or daddy) when we’re sick!

Outdoor time with sick kids will most likely include more-than-usual melt-downs. However, they also often tend to forget their ailments just for a bit in the fresh air, which is exactly the hope.

Why I take my sick kids outside

When the weather is a little less than desirable, but the fresh air is needed

Sending kids outside in the winter is beneficial too. Of course, you need to be sure they are safe, warm and protected from the elements. Keep them shaded in warmer weather and bundled in cooler weather.

For summer illnesses, dress them lightly and protect them from the sun. We like the Iksplor blanket for all weather (merino wool is nearly magical) and it works great to create breathable shade too.

Make sure they are drinking plenty of fluids, especially if they’re running a fever.

For winter illnesses, it’s all about layers.

We love a merino wool base + fleece mid layer (should you need that) + puffy outer layer. Make sure their heads and ears are covered.

Super cold day? Slip in a hand warmer between the mid and outer layers at their hands and their feet. Check out more ideas for dressing kids warm in this post.

Toddlers/infants may spend most or all the time in a protected stroller or in a carrier on us. This allows them to stay comfortable and still benefit from the fresh air.

It’s usually best to stay a little closer to home on walks/outings just to simplify the process. You don’t want to be halfway into a few mile hike and realize your kid needs medicine, a diaper change or just needs to be home.

Why I take my sick kids outside

I did some research trying to come up with the facts about WHY kids should be outside when they were sick and really met a lot of dead ends as far as “scientific” facts.

However, the general consensus (through forums and others talking about similar topics) was the knowledge that kids recover faster with fresh air.  

Is it ok to take kids with a cough or fever outside?

In my opinion, taking kids with a cough or a fever outside is ok….but maybe for shorter amounts of time.

Sometimes cold air can aggravate a cough, so let them rest with lots of warm layers when you take them out. My kids like having a light wool balaclava over their mouths.

Kids with a fever will, again, feel more irritable, so make them comfortable. Keep your time short and listen to your child AND your parental instincts. No one is gets a prize for taking their kids out longer than someone else.

The Scandinavians Know What They’re Doing!

If your babies (or kids) spend a lot of time napping in a stroller already, don’t feel guilty. It is, in fact, common practice in some of the coldest countries on our planet, and with good reason.

Outdoor naps usually end up being more restful and longer and it builds their immunity too.

Therefore sick kids napping outside helps them get some great rest and you (assuming you’re pushing a stroller) get some outdoor exercise too.

Want to know more about parenting like a Swede? Check out this blog post or (aff link) read this book (warning: it will make you want to move there!)

Why I take my sick kids outside

Benefits for the Rest of the Family

The health benefits of sweating are immense. Regular exercise has a positive effect on our natural immunity.

So, the kids who aren’t sick yet benefit from that outdoor opportunity to get their heart rate up while the sick kiddos get a chariot ride!

Kids that are just a little sick also benefit from getting their heart pumping and sweat glands moving. Let them gauge how hard they want to go.

Why I take my sick kids outside

Let’s Chat! 

Do you let your kids play outside when they are sick?  Do you in fact make a conscious effort to increase their outdoor time because they are sick (naps in strollers, on blankets or in carriers, etc.?)

Join the conversation in the comments below!

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Why I take my sick kids outside

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Nurture&

Wednesday 27th of January 2021

Most parents might not go with this idea but I totally agree with you. It helps in making a child's immune system more strong. Thanks for posting this.

Rachel Lim

Monday 9th of November 2020

Felt guilty that I let my toddler with a headcold play in the sun and a shallow pool of water today (at the time I was just trying to set up something fun for her) but my asian mum told me off and not to even give her baths while she's sick. Feeling comforted by your post and the comments about just following my child's lead! I hope she'll be on the mend soon.

Chinazor

Monday 20th of January 2020

Thanks for being realistic and giving me the prior warning that it was not going be an easy task.

It was not easy but it was worth it. The fever broke and the clinging bouts stopped for a while.

Amelia

Monday 20th of January 2020

YAY! Yes, it's so tough but I do really think it helps them in the long run (and us too!)

Barnes

Thursday 19th of December 2019

What about at 32 degrees ?

Amelia

Thursday 19th of December 2019

Yes, absolutely! My sick kids routinely go out in temperatures much colder than that....

Shaking up home education – Daily Nature

Monday 14th of October 2019

[…] We packed up the water bottles and snacks, grabbed the sunblock and tied up our shoe laces. We were going to brave the outdoors as our classroom that day, we were facing what it meant to be organic homeschoolers. We needed to get out of the house and head out for some sunshine! […]

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