The Best Liquids for Sick Toddlers

By Kristie Farnham
Keeping a sick toddler hydrated is extremely important.
Keeping a sick toddler hydrated is extremely important.

When toddlers are sick it can be difficult to get them to eat or drink. Temporary refusal of food is typically not a cause for concern; however, it is important for a sick toddler to stay hydrated for the duration of an illness. According to What to Expect, liquids are crucial for preventing dehydration if your child suffers from a respiratory illness, fever or a gastrointestinal issue that causes diarrhea. If your child is sick, you should consult your pediatrician.

Vomiting also warrants vigilance when it comes to keeping your sick toddler hydrated; however do not force excessive amounts of liquid on your child if he is having trouble keeping things down -- just offer liquids one teaspoon at a time.

Oral Rehydration Solution

There is consensus among health care professionals that oral rehydration solutions, such as Pedialyte or PediaONE, are ideal for keeping sick toddlers hydrated. In fact, the Women’s and Children’s Health Network recommends ORS as the best liquid to administer to a child who has gastroenteritis, which is commonly called the stomach flu. ORSs are prepared with specific amounts of sugar, salt and essential minerals, including potassium. Not only do these liquids replenish fluids that are lost through vomiting and diarrhea, but they also improve the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.


Plain water is appropriate for most sick children. It is not recommended as a primary hydration source for a sick toddler who is not eating solids because it does not offer nutritional value. Keep a water-filled sippy cup or bottle near your child so that he can take small drinks here and there, but be sure to monitor his intake. For toddlers who do not use sippy cups or bottles, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends providing water in a squeeze bottle, in a cup with a straw or in the form of an ice pop.


For children who are turned off by the bland taste of water, warm chicken or vegetable broth are good alternatives. In addition to combatting dehydration, clear broth provides warmth to soothe a sore throat and nutrients. For added benefits, give your child broth from chicken soup. Based on studies conducted by Stephen Rennard, M.D., chicken soup may have anti-inflammatory properties that help to alleviate symptoms such as congestion, coughing and a runny nose.


Giving your sick toddler warm tea is an effective way to provide hydration and alleviate a sore throat, coughing and mucus buildup. Be sure to check that the tea is not too hot before giving it to your toddler and that it is caffeine free, as caffeine is known to cause headaches and difficulty with sleep. If your sick child is older than 1, WebMD suggests adding honey to his tea as an additional combatant against throat soreness and coughing.


Fruit juice is typically high in sugar; however, diluting it with water makes it an acceptable liquid for sick toddlers. The Women’s and Children’s Health Network suggests mixing one part juice with four parts water. Stick to juices that have already been introduced into your child’s diet and avoid citrus juices, which sometimes cause an upset stomach due to their acidity. If your child becomes tired of drinking diluted juice, offer him a frozen juice bar, or consider making flavored ice chunks by freezing some juice in an ice cube tray. This allows your child to take a break from his liquid diet.


Many people believe that milk should never be given to a sick toddler. However, WebMD puts this myth to rest by affirming that milk can be beneficial for children who suffer from a cold or the flu as a result of its nutritional value.

About the Author

Kristie Farnham has been writing professionally since 2012. Much of her work focuses on parenting and educating preschool and school-aged children. She holds a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a Master of Arts in education from Carroll University. Farnham is also certified to teach in alternative learning environments.