Help Your Friend

What should I do when my friend is sick?

Checking the chart.

You may have a friend who has had a chronic illness for a long time, or maybe your friend just found out that he or she has a chronic illness. Either way, you are an important person in the life of your friend. You may have a lot of questions about the chronic illness, and what you can do to help.

What is my friend's illness?

A chronic illnesses is one that last for months or years. Sometimes it might last for the person's entire life. For example, cancer may need to be treated for months or years and then disappear. Other chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, last for the person's entire life. Asthma might bother some kids only when they are exposed to certain things in the air or when they get a cold, but they will be fine at other times. Depression might require treatment for weeks or months and might return throughout a person's life.

One thing is certain: every person's situation is different. It is important to learn all you can about your friend's illness so that you can be a good friend and help.

Learning about chronic illness

Girl in hospital. We are glad you are taking time to learn more about your friend's illnesses. It is important that you learn the facts. That way,

  • you can understand things for yourself
  • you can make sure that other kids understand
  • you can help your friend

We will provide general information here, but your friend is a unique person. You will need to ask people who know what your friend really needs. There are many people who can provide the information you need:

  • your parents
  • your teachers
  • your friend
  • your friend's parents
  • other trusted adults

Ask questions

Do not be afraid to ask questions. That is the only way to find the answers you need. Other kids have asked many good questions. Here are some answers to their questions:

  1. If I have a cold, can I make my friend sick?
    Some kids with a chronic illness may have a hard time fighting off germs and infections. For example, many kids with cancer may be more likely to catch colds, sore throat and other infections from us. This is because the very strong medicines that destroy the bad cancer cells also hurts the good cells in the body (the white blood cells) that fight infection.

    So, to help you friend remember to stay home when you have a fever, a bad cough or are throwing up.

    This is good advice any time, even when everyone around you seems healthy. You should also wash your hands often. Germs like to hide everywhere. So wash your hands:
    • before you eat
    • after you play
    • after going to the bathroom
    • whenever you touch a place that germs like to hide

  2. OK, so, where do germs like to hide?
    Typing with my toes?
    • Grocery store carts
    • Door knobs
    • Telephones
    • Noses
    • Trash
    • Computer keyboards

    (Excuse me. I think I'd better go wash my hands after I type this)

  3. How can I help my friend feel better?
    Visit your friend in the hospital Phone calls, funny cards and visits are great ways to keep your friend happy! You might want to invite your friend over to your house. But you are afraid that your friend can't come over and will feel bad about missing out on the fun time. Remember, most kids with chronic illnesses still can do the things they enjoyed before. So go ahead and invite your friend. Even if your friend is too sick, the fact that you remembered will mean a great deal. Above every thing else, kids with chronic illnesses don't want to be forgotten by their friends. Make a point to remember your friends.

    Don't forget:
    1. Be a friend.
    2. Cards, letters, e-mails and texts are really fun to get while stuck in the hospital.
    3. Invite your friend to play after getting out. Even if your friend cannot come over, that's fine. But if you never ask, you will never know, and will miss out on a really good time!
    4. Tell your friend about what is going on at school, scouts, soccer, etc. Be a helper on homework. Tell your friend about all the interesting parts of the day, such as who got sent to the office, what nasty thing was served in the cafeteria, and funny things that happened in the classroom.
    5. Tell others in school that your friend needs everyone's support.
    6. Talk to your friend. Someone with a chronic illness might simply feel left out and lonely. Often the best way you can help is to be a good listener.
    7. If you are worried about your friend or have questions, talk to your parents, teacher or another trusted adult.
    8. Enjoy your friend!