Skip to main content

Know the basics if your child is unwell

know the basics

Parents are usually good at noticing when something is wrong with their baby/child from quite early on. It is normal to worry that you won’t recognise the signs your baby is unwell. Trust your instincts, you know your baby best.

Learn how to spot the signs of serious illness and how to cope if an accident happens. If you know the basics and you are prepared, you will find it easier to cope.

Keep a small supply of useful medicines in a locked cabinet or somewhere up high where a child cannot reach them.

Make sure you have the right strength of medicine for the age of your child, always follow instructions carefully and check use by dates. Read the label carefully.

  • Do not give aspirin to children under 16.
  • If your baby seems to have a serious illness get medical help straight away.

Paracetamol and Ibuprofen

Paracetamol and ibuprofen are often used to relieve the discomfort caused by a high temperature.

Consider using either sugar-free paracetamol or ibuprofen for children with a fever who appear distressed.  As a general rule -  a temperature of over 38°C (100.4°F).

Treat them with either paracetamol OR ibuprofen in the first instance. It can take up to an hour for either of them to work.

Paracetamol and ibuprofen should NOT be given together at the same time. However, if your child remains distressed before the next dose is due, then you may want to try a dose of the other medicine.

If your child suffers from asthma, seek advice from your GP or pharmacist before giving ibuprofen.

Do not give aspirin to children under 16, and if you are breastfeeding, ask your health visitor, midwife or GP for advice before taking aspirin yourself.

Keep a small supply of useful items

Include things like:

  • Thermometer
  • Plasters
  • Liquid painkillers (such as sugar-free paracetamol or ibuprofen)
  • Barrier cream

Talk to your pharmacist about other useful items to have for childhood illnesses.

Find your local pharmacist (internal link)

Antibiotics for children

Antibiotics are for bacterial infections

Children don’t often need antibiotics. Most childhood infections are caused by viruses. Antibiotics are medicines which kill bacteria. They work only against bacteria, not the viruses that cause the majority of sore throats, colds, sinus infections and bronchitis.

For bacterial infections antibiotics work quickly and symptoms usually improve within 24 to 48 hours. Often children can feel completely better shortly after beginning the antibiotic course. To beat the bacterial infection, it is important that your child finishes the entire course as prescribed, even if your child seems better.

Talk to your GP about side effects

If you’re offered a prescription for an antibiotic, talk to your GP about why it is needed and how it will help. Ask about any possible side effects for example, whether it could make your child sleepy or irritable and other side effects like sickness and diarrhoea.

Repeated use and misuse of antibiotics are some of the main causes of the increase in resistant bacteria. Antibiotics are now no longer routinely used to treat chest infections, ear infections and sore throats in children.

Finish the prescribed course

If your child is prescribed antibiotics always finish the whole course to make sure all the bacteria are killed off. Your child may seem better after two or three days, but if the course is five days, they must carry on taking the medicine. The illness is more likely to return if your child does not finish all the antibiotics.

Who to contact for help

Back to top