What to do when children are ill
Having an ill child is a very scary experience for parents and carers. Understanding more about how a child feels when they are ill can help you feel more in control.
Before we begin, use the comments section below to write the things you normally expect to see if a child is unwell. See if they match the advice below!
How do I know if a child is unwell?
Fever (high temperature)
Image from Victoria_Borodinova on Pixabay.
- A high temperature is a normal response that can help the child fight off an infection.
- If the child seems uncomfortable, you might want to try to bring down the child’s temperature with paracetamol and / or with ibuprofen - your setting may have a process for administering medication if a child has a fever so please ensure you follow these procedures. Don’t wrap children with fever with blankets, but instead you may want to take off excess outer clothing.
- Sometimes young children can have a seizure when they have a high temperature. This can be very scary for parents and carers, but is usually not serious. If this happens call 999 immediately to ensure the child can be checked over in a hospital.
Irritable and grizzly
Image from joffi on Pixabay.
- It is normal for children to feel upset or irritable when they are feeling unwell. Try to be patient with them and reassure them as much as you can.
- If they seem very distressed or won’t stop crying seek medical advice. If they become drowsy, floppy or have a seizure call 999 immediately.
Refusing to eat and drink
Image from anandart on Pixabay.
- They may also refuse to eat and drink. Try to encourage them to keep drinking, and watch out for signs of dehydration such as drowsiness, dry eyes/mouth or decreased urination. This is especially true for younger children (under 1 years) who are at high risk of dehydration when they are unwell.
- If you are concerned, seek medical advice.
When should I be worried and seek help?
If you are worried about a child’s behaviour or illness always seek advice from a medical specialist. The NHS 111 telephone line can be a helpful way to get advice about how to manage an unwell child. In an emergency always call 999.
Here’s a checklist of warning signs that might be serious:
- Blue, pale, blotchy, or ashen (grey) skin
- The child is hard to wake up, or appears disoriented or confused
- The child is crying constantly and you cannot console or distract them, or the cry does not sound like their normal cry
- Green vomit
- The child has a febrile seizure for the first time
- The child is under 8 weeks old and does not want to feed
- Nappies that are drier than usual – this is a sign of dehydration
If a child has any of these signs, get medical help as soon as possible.
When should I call an ambulance?
Call 999 for an ambulance if a child:
Above all, trust your instincts. You know what’s different or worrying behaviour for the children you look after.
How long should children be excluded from childcare facilities for?
Link to a helpful document which provides the recommended exclusion time for children according to their illness.
The see also and downloads sections below have links to further reading you may find useful.
© BSAC & PHE