Advice to Parents of Acutely Sick Children

Infections are very common in children, especially among the under 5s.

Most of these infections are what we call 'self-limiting', that means your children will get better on their own without the need for treatment.

Colds, sore ears, sore throats and 'tummy bugs' ('D&V') are mostly self-limiting, and information about these illnesses and what you can do to ease the symptoms are available on the website shown below. 

Very occasionally there is a more serious cause for your child's illness that will require treatment, or even hospital admission. There is a list at the bottom of this article of more worrying symptoms that should prompt you to seek help.

Children under 6 months with fever always need to be discussed with the surgery on the same day. Sometimes we are happy just to discuss your child by phone, and sometimes we will ask you to bring your child to see a doctor or nurse practitioner.

If you feel you need further advice about your child's illness when the surgery is closed then call NHS24 on 111.

If you would like more information on how to deal with a feverish illness in your child then the following website is helpful:

or just enter 'NHS children fever' into Google (but only choose NHS websites, eg. NHS Inform, NHS Choices or

If you are in any doubt at all please call the surgery to discuss your child.

We will always deal with all queries about acutely sick children on the same day you call.

Particular reasons to call the surgery:

  • a high pitched, weak or continuous cry
  • a lack of responsiveness, marked slowdown in activity or increased floppiness
  • in babies, a bulging fontanelle (the soft spot on a baby's head)
  • neck stiffness
  • not drinking for more than eight hours (taking solid food is not as important)
  • a temperature of over 38C (100.4F) for a baby less than three months old, or over 39C (102.2F) for a baby three to six months old. Read more about how to take your child's temperature.
  • a high temperature, but cold feet and hands
  • a high temperature, coupled with quietness and listlessness
  • fits, convulsions and seizures
  • turning blue, very pale, mottled or ashen
  • difficulty breathing, fast breathing, grunting while breathing, or if your child is working hard to breathe - for example, sucking their stomach in under their ribs
  • your baby or child is unusually drowsy, hard to wake up or doesn't seem to recognise you
  • your child is unable to stay awake, even when you wake them
  • a spotty, purle-red rash anywhere on the body (this could be a sign of meningitis)
  • repeated vomiting or bile-stained (green) vomiting

Written by Dr Crofton

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