12 Memories Of Being Off Sick From School During The 1980s

There are few things worse than being ill, because whether it’s your sinuses or your stomach, not being able to function to your full capacity is always utterly frustrating.

We’re sure that you all remember being off sick from school when you were young, and if you’re anything like us, then your memories of the illness are not nearly as vivid as the positive aspects of being able to spend a day on the sofa, whilst all your friends worked their poor little socks off in the classroom.

So stay in your pyjamas, pour yourself a mug of something nice and hot, and remain at home with us as we present the following 12 cosy memories of being off sick from school during the 1980s.


12. Vicks VapoRub

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No 1980s sinus based illness was complete without the application of Vicks VapoRub, an ointment that our mum or dad rubbed onto our chest to help clear our nasty nasal congestion.

We don’t know about you, but the distinctive Vicks smell (a combination of camphor, eucalyptus oil and menthol) is one that always immediately transports us back to our childhood.

11. Lucozade

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As adults we know for sure that carbonated drinks give us wind, but for some reason our parents thought that fizzy bubbles would sooth the childhood stomach ache that was keeping us from attending school.

One particular drink that was always a popular stomach ‘cure’ was Lucozade, which to be fair is known to help with re-hydration after sickness or diarrhoea.

10. For Schools and Colleges TV

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Being off sick didn’t always mean that were weren’t able to continue with our learning, thanks to the daily ‘For Schools and Colleges’ TV programmes that we could also access from home.

Look and Read, The Boy from Space, Geordie Racer and Stop Look and Listen were just four of the shows that made up the retro educational programme.

9. Banana or Strawberry Penicillin

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Although being poorly was always horrible, the experience was sweetened slightly when our parents brought out the banana or strawberry flavoured Penicillin.

Unfortunately such yummy tasting Antibiotics are no longer available, but even if they were, a forty-something adult asking their doctor for “the yummy medicine” might not go down too well.

8. Sick Buckets

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We all remember having a yucky tummy bug as a child, and what was always the first item to be brought out after our initial round of vomiting?

It was of course ‘the sick bucket,’ which would become our constant companion over the next 24 to 48 hours, only to be removed once our parents were completely convinced that we weren’t going to be sick again.

7. Warm Ribena

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Another regular sick day beverage involved heating up a drink that would normally be used to refresh us after a busy day of playing outside with our friends.

The drink in question was Ribena, which despite being delicious was extremely sugary and unhealthy, especially a few decades ago. But once it was heated up Ribena became a marvel of modern medicine, able to instantly heal the most troublesome cough or cold.

6. Comics

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A happy memory we have from our sick days at home was our mum treating us to a brand new comic book or two from our local newsagent.

Whether it was The Beano, The Dandy, Buster or Whizzer and Chips we really didn’t care, because we just appreciated the gift, and loved reading about the latest escapades of our favourite comic strip characters.

5. Honey and Lemon Flavoured Cough Drops

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Being sick was pretty much the only time we were allowed to see inside our parent’s coveted medicine cabinet, which was a wonderful treasure trove full of pills, liquids and rubs.

And a nasty cough would give us access to the most tasty treat of all; a delicious honey and lemon flavoured cough drop that would very quickly sooth our tender tonsils.

4. Boiling Water and Towels

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If any of you ever suffered from the respiratory infection Croup as a child, then like us you may have experienced your mum or dad entering your bedroom with a bowl of boiling water. No, really.

We were encouraged to put our face over the bowl with a towel over our head, so that the steam could clear our congested throat and nasal passage. To be fair, it really did work.

3. Mercury Thermometers

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The young people of today can keep their fancy plastic electronic thermometers, because during the 1980s we always enjoyed our parents jamming a mercury filled glass stick down our already sore throat.

Glass thermometers may have felt extremely uncomfortable, but we bet that they read our temperature even better than the technologically advanced offerings that you can purchase today.

2. Australian Soap Operas

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A solitary TV combined with a complete lack of streaming services meant that being sick from school often meant that we had to sit through some of mum’s favourite daytime TV shows.

Many of these shows, such as The Sullivans, Sons and Daughters, The Flying Doctors, Neighbours and Home and Away were from ‘down under,’ so at least we got to see some sunshine whilst we were stuck at home feeling sorry for ourselves.

1. Fennings’ Fever Cure

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One of the dangers of being off sick from school was being forced to swallow some really old medicine that our parents had stored at the back of their medicine cupboard.

Once such horrifically tasting monstrosity was Fennings’ Fever Cure, which was meant to help our cold, but instead felt like it was eating away at our insides.