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A character comes down with a serious illness, and may be bedridden. This may be in order to pad out the season, to provide an excuse as to why that character isn't present when their skills or powers would wrap up the plot neatly in a few minutes, or to give the love interest an excuse to nurse him or her back to health. In romances, the sickness is all about the worried, tender nursing. And in the comedies, they frequently end with the sick character now all healthy and looking forward to doing whatever... only for their friend to suddenly start sneezing.
Cures for this illness can vary wildly by genre, and obtaining the cure may take up a small plot arc of its own. These illnesses are rarely, if ever, fatal. The illness also mostly never has lasting implications for the main Story Arc, though it's not beyond the pale for a Monster of the Week to be responsible for a character illness or find a way to exploit the opportunity.
The Sick Episode may also entail characters having to work through their illness when they'd really rather be at home in bed with bowls of chicken soup. Or it may cover the remaining healthy characters scrambling to fill the hole left behind. In both of these cases hilarity sometimes ensues.
If the sickness involved is discovered to be maybe life-threatening, you have a Wham! Episode instead.
If the illness is caused by contact with evil, that's Allergic to Evil. See also Soap Opera Disease for diseases which are ultimately fatal and may or may not be used as Filler. Compare Hurt Comfort Fic.
- Caretaker Reversal
- Fever Dream Episode
- Ruptured Appendix
- The Tonsillitis Episode.
- Working Through the Cold
Anime & Manga
- Used in Inuyasha, when Kagome comes down with a severe cold. The main plot is put on hold while Kagome goes home to rest and the title character mixes up a disgusting "cure."
- Sailor Moon's second season had the Sailors come down sick except Minako, who attempts to come to their aid as Nurse Venus. Be very afraid of Nurse Venus.
- In the Cardcaptor Sakura episode "Sakura's Dizzy Fever Day", Sakura has a fever but tries to perform her school and Magical Girl duties anyway. she can barely do it with Syaoran and Meiling's help, and then passes out in bed. good thing that Nadeshiko's ghost uses her own energy to help her a little.
- Junjo Romantica has a chapter in which Nowaki was sick so of course Hiroki freaked out taking care of him. Slight subversion, however, because even though it was invoked for the cliche nursing tropes, the next day Nowaki reveals he wasn't sick at all, just a little tired.
- Otani gets a fever in a chapter/episode of Lovely Complex, so Risa shows up to help him out. And then they have an Accidental Kiss, when he passes out on her and their lips meet.
- One Piece: An entire ARC arises from Nami getting seriously sick, which leads to the rest of the Straw Hats meeting the reindeer doctor Tony Tony Chopper, who eventually joins them.
- On Maison Ikkoku both Godai and Mitaka broke their legs, so there was a series of episodes set during their recovery both in and out of the hospital.
- Twin to an earlier episode, when Kyoko was down with a sprained ankle, and everyone tried to help her out (empahsis on "tried").
- Pokémon has an episode where Brock was sick and Ash and Misty did the jobs he'd usually do.
- An Orange Islands episode left the Ash and Tracey paralyzed by Stun Spore, and Misty had to race to find the Salveyo Weed cure before James and Meowth (Jessie had run into the exact same Vileplume).
- And a Sinnoh episode had Dawn's Pachirisu come down with a fever, though this was from an electricity buildup (Pikachu had something similar twice before).
- In another Sinnoh episode, Jessie is too sick to participate in a Pokémon Contest, so James disguises himself as her and competes in her stead. And he even wins.
- Chrono Crusade has an episode where Chrono comes down with a fever after exerting himself too much. Rosette runs all over town trying to find a fever represent that's "strong enough for a demon"--only to push herself so hard that she gets sick in the process.
- And then it turns out the only cure is for Rosette to kiss him. Which she does.
- The pre-second-season OVA episode of Spice and Wolf had Holo getting sick and Lawrence taking care of her, using different kinds of foods to balance her humors in true medieval fashion. This episode also featured an interesting variant on a usual Sick Episode trope: Holo collapses dramatically with a fever, but when she wakes up, the first thing Lawrence does is scold her angrily for not mentioning that she felt bad earlier. If she had done that while they were traveling, he explains, she could have died.
- In Ranma ½, Ranma gets a superpowerful mutation of the common cold after Happosai gives it to him. How powerful? It makes his skin so hot it boils water instantly on contact. Later on, it mutates again so that it flash-freezes any moisture, even from the air around him. At least he (or she, at the time) got to be coddled and babied around by his mother, Nodoka.
- Don't forget the anime episode in which Happosai himself gets badly sick. It turns out that he's dying, and then everyone gets sick when he starts absorbing their Life Energy to hold on to life. Akane is the only one who doesn't fall ill, so she has to find the cure.
- For one chapter in the manga, Ukyo is sick in bed with a cold. Ranma, Akane, and Konatsu work in the restaurant, until she's well again.
- Tohru gets a cold in Fruits Basket, so Kyou takes care of her. He even cooks his much hated leeks for her!
- In Lucky Star Kagami gets sick with a cold and is bedridden for an episode. Konata even visits her... to ask for her homework so she can copy it. Later Konata claims to have a spring cold, but Kuroi-sensei doesn't buy it. She's really sick.
- Ouran High School Host Club has a chapter in the manga where Tamaki is in bed with a cold. His fever also leads him to kiss Haruhi's forehead, mimicking what his father had just done. He says it's all right because he's Haruhi's father and drifts off to sleep. After recovering he doesn't remember doing it.
- Gintama has a Sick Episode where Tae, Gintoki, Kagura, Kondo, Ayame, and Hasegawa all get sick with the same alien virus, while Shinpachi has to tend to them all. This being Gintama, however, Katsura, of all people, eventually cures the entire gang while serving as a cross between "Ill Smith" and Barack Obama ("Yes, we can!" indeed.). Afterwards, everyone except Shinpachi accidentally turns into "Ill Smiths". To top it all off, the whole sequence was just part of a flashback within the real sick episode. Suffice to say, this series refuses to play its tropes straight.
- In Yotsuba&!, Yotsuba gets sick the day her father was supposed to take her to a ranch to learn where milk comes from, leading to a meltdown and day spent in bed. No romantic hijinks, fortunately -- just more TV than usual. She finally gets to go a week later.
- One Patlabor episode revolves around Izumi having a bad toothache, and having to work through it (including putting on her helmet).
- The public bath episode, mentions that Kumagami is out sick (making Noa the only female SV 2 member).
- Tokyo Mew Mew has two, first Ichigo gets a bad cold, later Purin gets a fever from pushing herself far too hard. The girl's only 12, after all.
- Kaoru gets sick in Ai Yori Aoshi after running out into the rain to rescue Aoi, who has skipped on Miyabi. Later in the series, Aoi herself crashes out with illness, and the group tries to cover for their resident Yamato Nadeshiko. It's harder than she makes it look.
- In Seitokai Yakuindomo, Takatoshi gets sick, and Shino presumes it's because he lent her his umbrella while it was raining, forcing him to go home without one.
- Yomi is bedridden in an episode of Azumanga Daioh due to a fever. She misses out on a trip with the girls to a theme park because of it.
- Michiko to Hatchin. Michiko collapses while driving her scooter, and then tries to shrug off her fever by claiming she just has a very "hot body". Since she's on the run from the law, Hatchin has to enlist a shady back alley doctor/mystic to cure her.
- Gun X Sword has not one but two such episodes, giving each member of the show's central pairing a chance to care for the other. At the end of the first Sick Episode, Van finally learns Wendy's name; in the second one, he opens up and talks about his past. Given that he's The Stoic, it's a pretty significant breakthrough.
- Happens a few times in K-On!--first, Ritsu gets sick after a falling-out with Mio, and then after Mio and the others visit her, Yui catches her cold too, which very nearly ruins their upcoming live performance. The next time, Yui gets sick again, but she gets better quickly and Ui winds up catching the cold. This helps Yui learn An Aesop about appreciating what you have.
- This trope sees unorthodox usage in Gundam Seed in an episode where the Le Creuset team is on leave at the PLANTs. While everyone else is going about their business unaware, Rau himself is curled up in his room, laid out with a mystery affliction. He's still expected to work, and no one comes to help him--even if those who cared about him knew, they wouldn't be able to do anything, after all. Life just sucks like that when you're a clone.
- In an episode of Ichigo Mashimaro, Chika has a cold, and Nobue takes care of her part of the time. When she's gone, Miu pretends to be a doctor. When Nobue returns, Miu has her pretend to be a doctor while the girls who aren't sick take turns at pretending to be patients. Then Miu actually does get sick...
- FAKE has two separate sick chapters, one in which Ryo is sick and Dee takes care of him, and a later one in which the roles are reversed and Ryo takes care of Dee.
- Naruto Shippuden has a Filler episode in which Naruto gets a bad cold. Hilarity Ensues. (And Sakura ends up covered in white snot more than once.)
- In the Mai-HiME sound dramas, Natsuki comes down with a cold, which Nagi attributes to the shock of having to expose herself to get a ride.
- In Bakuman｡, Mashiro gets hospitalized from overworking himself, resulting in Detective Trap taking a hiatus.
- In Final Approach when Ryo gets sick this leads to the heroines realizing the girl they really need to compete with is not each other but his sister Akane.
- Binbou Shimai Monogatari leaves this one for the finale. It is very Tear Jerking because unlike if this were done mid-season, there is a very real possibility that the sick sister actually dies. Thankfully, she doesn't. Cue Tears of Joy.
- In GA Geijutsuka Art Design Class, Namiko stays home with a cold, but most of it is about her friends coping with her absence and reacting to her texts.
- In the original Digimon series, Taichi is temporarily sent back home with Agumon, and they have to take care of his sister Hikari who is sick in bed. Later Hikari falls sick again, this time with much more severe sympthoms, and as Sora and Biyomon take care of her, Taichi, Koushirou and their Digimons have to Find the Cure. It's made even harder with Metal Seadramon chasing after them.
- Spider-Man was always getting sick for an issue or two, but then his spider-strength would allow him to recover in record time. Unfortunately, he always happened to get this right when the Monster of the Week showed up.
- A special mention goes out to the Grim Hunt storyline, in which the villains actually plan their attack to take place when he's sick using the precognitive abilities of Madame Web.
- Animorphs has this in the form of the book "The Sickness". Ax gets an Andalite appendicitis-like condition called Yamphut. The rest of the gang get flu-like symptoms and get put out of commission one by one-until only Cassie is left to carry out the rescue the team was trying to accomplish to free a Yeerk Peace Movement ally who was about to be executed by Visser Three as a traitor. Once Cassie returns with Aftran, the Yeerk must go inside Ax's head to direct Cassie as she does brain surgery to remove Ax's ready-to-burst tria gland.
- In Warrior Cats, most of ThunderClan became ill in Long Shadows with the deadly disease greencough; we see the healthy cats attempting to keep up with all the patrols and hunting, and cat after cat becomes sick.
Live Action TV
- The Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 2 episode "Killed By Death."
- The Charmed season 2 episode "Awakened." Piper comes down with a serious disease and her health slowly deteriorates throughout the episode.
- The 8th season CSI episode "Grissom's Divine Comedy" has Grissom come down with the flu. His rest is interrupted by a case on which the grand jury indictment of a gang leader hinges. Oh, and the flu is getting around to the others on the team too.
- "Mr. Monk Stays in Bed". And still has to solve the murder of the week and has a musical Get Well card that just won't stop.
- Played straight, averted and played with in Hannah Montana where illnesses have been used seriously, mocked, faked and lampshaded.
- The Doctor of Doctor Who spends most of "The Christmas Invasion" unconscious in bed at Rose's house while he recovers from the recent physical trauma of his regeneration, occasionally gasping up wisps of yellow energy. Which apparently inconveniently attracted an alien invasion. It's interesting to note that this is Tennant's debut episode and he spent most of it unconscious.
- Eight is put out of action this way in The Adventuress of Henrietta Street (in the Eighth Doctor Adventures books) for quite a while. Unlike Ten, he's physically incapacitated for about two months and coughs up black bile. And he has horrible hallucinations, his eyes eventually get black, cloudy stuff on them, and everyone thinks he's going to die. Although his illness rather ruins his own wedding, he doesn't die... no, Anti-Villain Sabbath kicks the dog rather a bit by saving his life by means of Meatgrinder Surgery, ripping his heart out bare-handed, mostly because he thinks it'll be useful.
- The Golden Girls did this with one episode where Dorothy had what was eventually diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome. This wasn't done for laughs so much as it was to spread awareness about what was then a very misunderstood condition, but it counts because by the end of the episode she was medicated and feeling better, and the issue was never raised in the series again.
- There's also the episode The Flu, where they all get sick.
- In the Key West episode The Great Unknown, the entire town of Key West (with the significant exceptions of Savannah, Jojo, and Sheriff Cody) succumb to a flu epidemic. At first, it seems Seamus O'Neill is likewise immune, but in the end he gets so sick he almost dies. He doesn't die, but when his fever finally breaks he brings back a message for Gumbo from his late wife, Fifi.
- The Parks and Recreation episode "Flu Season". April ends up in the hospital and uses being Ann's patient as an excuse to torment her. Chris becomes obsessed with not getting sick, but comes down with the flu anyway. Leslie keeps working and insisting that she is not sick, despite being obviously ill to the point of having fever hallucinations.
- Al and Kelly of Married... with Children fake being sick to get out of visiting Peggy's family. Naturally, Kelly gets sick anyway, and Al has to babysit her back to health. Which he does - just in time to get sick himself.
- Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: Kimberly is sick with a cold during season 3's tripart opener, "A Friend In Need". She has to stay behind resting while the other Rangers travel to Edenoi. However, Zedd and Rita send down a monster, forcing Kimberly to fight in spite of her illness. It's a tough fight, but the monster catches her cold and has to return to the moon so that Finster can cure it.
- The Good Guys: Episode 3! Possibly the show with the earliest episode for this to occur. Dan Stark starts the episode with a potent flu, and by the end of the episode, not only his partner, but practically the entire force, as well as the bad guy. Bonus points for handcuffing himself to the bad guy before passing out while he was being strangled.
- In Resonance of Fate, one of the three playable characters, Leanne, spends all of Chapter 6 bedridden with a cold while the other two protagonists try to retrieve cold medicine for her. Since the cold medicine is stored inside a permanently frozen wasteland dungeon, this is harder than it sounds.
- In the Tokimeki Memorial series, letting your Stress stat get too high results in a week of illness, during which a character who's in love with you will pay a visit to check up on you.
- Harvest Moon 64 has each of the girls fall ill on a rainy or snowy day when you reach a certain level of relationship with them.
- One story from My Milk Toof was all about ickle caring for Lardee while he was sick, bringing him soup and reading a bedtime story to him.
- Ben and Gwen Tennyson have one in the episode side effects. Not only is Ben sick, but all of his alien forms are sick as well.
- This is continued later on in the sequel where Ben once more gets a cold. Vilgax contracts it at the end.
- An episode of Daria features Daria being hospitalized due to a mysterious rash (which is caused by thoughts about her love interest Trent).
- There was a half-length episode of Kim Possible where Shego had to call in sick. It actually started with the Tweebs, then Kim caught it, then she passed it to Shego while they were fighting, so Shego caught it...by the end of the episode, pretty much the entire cast was in bed.
- Hey Arnold has one, where Helga gets hysteria after reading a quack book on diseases (she fears she's caught Monkey-Nucleosis after being kissed by a weird organ grinder's monkey ). She think she's going to die, and forgives all her friends on her "deathbed" and is about to confess her love to Arnold... until Pheobe corrects her.
- Ren and Stimpy - Ren falls ill, and it's up to Stimpy to take care of him. Hilarity Ensues.
- As Told by Ginger not only has a sick episode, but in that episode, she is bedridden and hospitalized by appendicitis.
- The Wild Thornberrys has Eliza get appendicitis in one of the holiday episodes. (Maybe Valentine's Day?)
- Sarah in Liberty's Kids gets smallpox for some time.
- What does Ms. Frizzle of The Magic School Bus do when one of her students (Ralphie) comes down sick? Why, take the class on a field trip into his body to learn about the immune system!
- Danny Phantom has a different take on the sick episode plot in that everyone but the hero (and his friend, but that's due to his Day in The Limelight position) is sick with a cold. Danny and Tucker end up catching it in the last stretch of the episode anyway.
- One episode of Phineas and Ferb had Candace bedridden due to a flulike illness, despite the series taking place in the summer. Her best friend Stacy takes Candace's usual role in the show of trying to bust the title characters, but gets sidetracked by how much fun she's having with them.
- Another episode has Phineas, Ferb, Baljeet, Buford, and Isabella all bedridden and playing the world's best video game. Buford wasn't really sick at the time, though, he was just lazy. He gets sick at the end anyway.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Sokka and Katara become seriously ill after being exposed to the storm in the previous episode, and Aang spends an episode trying to find a cure for them.
- In Time Squad, Otto gets sick with a cold, leaving the two incompetent time cops Buck Tuddrussel and Larry to help Benjamin Franklin. When they do find Ben Franklin, they help him invent the light bulb. Realizing that didn't help at all, they go back home to tell Otto what happened. Furious, Otto tells him that Edison was the one who invented the lightbulb and to quickly destroy the one they helped build, and that the mission was clearly about getting Franklin to help write the Declaration of Independence. They end up dragging the kid out of bed to recite the first paragraph of the Declaration to the founding fathers, right before passing out.
- In the Adventure Time episode "Storytelling," Jake comes down with a flu-like illness, and sends Finn on a mission to go on an epic adventure, for the purpose of gathering material for an epic story to tell bedridden Jake. At the end, this results in Caretaker Reversal, when Finn catches Jake's sick.
- The SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Suds." Spongebob comes down with a bad case of "The Suds," the sponge equivalent of the common cold. Not much fun for poor Spongebob, who's feeling terrible throughout the whole episode, but Hilarity Ensues anyway, as expected.
- In Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy, Sarah comes down with a cold and Ed and Jimmy constantly bicker over who gets to take care of her, much to Eddy's annoyance.
Eddy: *as Ed uses a vacuum cleaner to clean Sarah's nose* What a sap! We're wasting the whole day!
- The episode "A Case Of Ed" is a subversion, as Double-D only believes himself to be ill. Double-D, a hypochondriac, worries himself sick by obsessively reading an encyclopedia of rare diseases- and Eddy and Ed join in the fun and tell Double-D how awful he looks. He believes he has they symptoms of "Lacadaisy-Cathro Disease," and automatically becomes pale, weak, and sickly.
- In "Sick Mind," Optimus Prime comes down with "cybonic plague," an engineered virus that will kill him unless Bumblebee gets the cure from Megatron's mind.
- Futurama, "Cold Warriors". Fry comes down with a cold. No big deal, except that the common cold had been eradicated 500 years before, leading to a mass quarantine and a frantic search for a vaccine.
- Played for laughs on Voltron: Legendary Defender when Coran catches a case of "the slipperies."