For Peers and Classmates

When Your Friend is Sick

You might have a friend who has had a chronic illness for a long time, or perhaps was only recently diagnosed with a chronic illness. Either way, you are an important person in your friend's life. You might have a lot of questions about the chronic illness, what it means to your friend, and how you can help.

There are many different kinds of chronic illnesses, and many ways that your friend might be affected. Chronic illnesses are those that last for months, years, or sometimes for the person's entire life. Cancer is a chronic illness that might last for months or years and then, sometimes, be gone. Diabetes and sickle cell anemia are chronic illnesses that last for the person's entire life.

Learn about your friend's illness.

It is important that you understand the facts about your friend's illness. That way, you can understand what your friend needs, you can make sure that other kids understand, and you can help your friend. On this site, you will find information about many chronic illnesses, and links to visit to learn more. If you have questions about your friend's illness, talk to your friend, your parents and your teachers.

Some kids tell us that they are afraid that they will catch the illness if they get too close to their friend. This is a very normal feeling. We know many common illnesses are contagious, or the kind you can catch. Your friend has a chronic illness. Most chronic illnesses are not contagious. Being around someone with sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, cancer, diabetes, asthma or nearly any other other chronic illness is not dangerous. Think about being around someone with a broken leg. You can spend all day with your friend, but your leg still will be just fine.

Some chronic illnesses, however, might put your friend at risk to catch something from you. Kids with cancer, for example, might be more likely to catch colds, the flu, strep throat and other infections from you. The very strong medicines needed to fight the cancer makes it easy for them to catch infections. So, to help them we should stay home when we are throwing up, have a fever or have a bad cough. We should also wash our hands very well throughout the day. Germs love to live on our hands and we can spread them if we do not wash our hands well. Washing hands is just generally a good idea.

Best friends.

It is hard to be a kid with a chronic illness, and you might worry about your friend's happiness. You should try to find ways that you can help your friend feel happier and have fun. That is one of the most important ways you can help your friend. Phone calls, e-mails, cards, text messages and visits are great ways to keep your friend happy. Don't be afraid to invite your friend over to your house. Kids with chronic illnesses often can do most of the things they did before they got sick. Most likely, you will have a great time together. Even if your friend cannot come over, the fact that you remembered and wanted to spend time together can bring great joy. Your friend is ill, but your friendship is still strong. Don't be afraid to invite your friend over to do fun things together.