Generally unwell

It can be confusing to know what to do when your baby is unwell. Below is a red, amber and green table that you may find helpful.

If your baby has any of the following signs:

  • Pale, mottled (blotchy) skin which feels unusually cold.
  • Is stiff or rigid for a long time or makes repeated, jerky movements of arms or legs that doesn't stop when you hold them (a fit or seizure).
  • Is difficult to wake.
  • Has a hot chest, face or back and is sweaty or clammy (a temperature of 38 degrees C / 100.5 degrees F or higher) unless this is within two days of vaccinations and there are no other signs from this box or the AMBER box below.
  • Is too breathless to feed, has pauses in their breathin lasting more than 10 seconds and is grunting or going blue.
  • Green vomit (like the colour of spinach or green washing up liquid).

Please seek urgent help if you are frightened because your baby looks very unwell.

You need urgent help.

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999

If your baby has any of the following signs:

  • Difficulty breathing, including: breathing fast all the time; widening their nostrils or pulling in the muscles below the ribs when breathing.
  • Not interested in feeding and/or looks dehydrated (dry mouth, sunken eyes, no tears, or no wet nappies in the last 8 hours).
  • Is increasingly sleepy or irritable (crying continuously and won't calm down.
  • Has yellow skin or whites of their eyes, which is quickly becoming worse.
  • Blood in the poo.
  • Very pale (white or grey) poo - keep a sample to show the doctor.
  • Keeps being sick.

Please seek advice if your baby is getting worse or if you are worried.

Immediately contact your GP and make an appointment for your baby to be seen that day or call NHS 11 - dial 111.

During the current pandemic, it may be difficult to get advice. If, after 4 hours or more, your baby hasn't improved or has got worse and you haven't been able to speak to either someone from your GP practice or to NHS 11, you may need to take them to the nearest A&E department.

If yout baby DOESN'T have any signs from the RED or AMBER boxes, the following are normal:

  • Your baby is less than two weeks old (or three weeks old and breastfed) and looks slightly yellow, mainly on the face. (this may slowly increase over a day or two but will then start to fade).
  • Has four to six wet nappies a day.
  • Has green, brown, orange or black poo. (The poo of breastfed babies is usually yellow and can often look 'seedy' - it's a sign that your baby is healthy).
  • Continues to feed well with breast or formula milk.
  • Baby wakes up often and cries to be fed.

Continue look after your child at home.

If you are still concerned about your baby contact your Health Visitor or NHS 111 - visit 111.nhs.uk or dial 111.

If your baby seems well but is still crying a lot, you can find more advice here: https://iconscope.org/.

Click here to download a printable version of the Red, Amber and Green table above.

Self Care

For wear and tear, minor trips and everything in between.

Self-care

You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.

Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when required, using the recommended medicines and getting plenty of rest.

Sound advice

Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly; it is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Local Pharmacist

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they are a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.

Sound advice

  1. Visit a pharmacy if your child is ill, but does not need to see a GP.
  2. Remember that if your child's condition gets worse, you should seek further medical advice immediately.
  3. Help your child to understand - watch this video with them about going to the pharmacy.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Health Visitors

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns or to the Community Paediatricians or to the child and adolescent mental health services.

Contact them by phoning your Health Visitor Team or local Children’s Centre.

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

  • Breastfeeding, weaning and healthy eating
  • Exercise, hygiene and safety
  • Your child’s growth and development
  • Emotional health and wellbeing, including postnatal depression
  • Safety in the home
  • Stopping smoking
  • Contraception and sexual health
  • Sleep and behaviour management (including temper tantrums!)
  • Toilet training
  • Minor illnesses

For more information watch the video: What does a health visitor do?

School Nurses

School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5-19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and/or emotional health needs.

Contacting the School Nurse

Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse – telephone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.

There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.

Sound Advice

Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.

They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:-

  • encouraging healthier lifestyles
  • offering immunisations
  • giving information, advice and support to children, young people and their families
  • supporting children with complex health needs

Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.

GP (General Practitioner)

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  1. Doctors/GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to A&E.
  2. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about visiting the GP or going to a walk in centre

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

NHS 111

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Accident and Emergency

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as loss of consciousness, suspected heart attacks, breathing difficulties, or severe bleeding that cannot be stopped. If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  1. Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services.
  2. If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment.
  3. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance
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