What happens if your child is feeling unwell? All children get ill from time to time. Many illnesses get better by themselves and can be easily treated at home.


  • small babies can become very poorly very quickly
  • you know your baby best
  • do not wait too long if you are worried
  • ask for help when you need it

A very ill baby may: 

  • be unusually sleepy or floppy
  • have breathing difficulties , such as breathing fast or grunting
  • be much less active
  • take less than the normal feed in the previous 24 hours
  • have less than four wet nappies in the previous 24 hours
  • feel hot when looking pale, or they look mottled or blue
  • have a spotty purple rash on their body which could be a sign of meningitis

If you notice any of these contact your doctor (or out of hours doctor) at once and find out what to do next. If you cannot talk to a doctor quickly, then take your baby/child to a walk-in centre, or to A&E.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If ever in doubt, talk to a health professional, or seek medical advice.

The health visiting team will be notified if your child attends out of hours, a walk-in centre or A&E. A member of the team may contact you to see how you and your child are doing post visit.

Please explore the following sections for more information:

Sticky eyes’ often occur in newborn babies, usually while their tear ducts are developing.

Sticky eyes present with white sticky mucous in the corner of one or both eyes, eyelashes may stick together.

Sticky eyes usually clear up on their own after a few days.

Clean your baby’s eyes regularly using cotton wool and cool boiled water, wiping the eye once from the corner of the nose outwards, then disposing of the cotton wool.


If your baby’s eyes appear sticky with yellowy or green sticky mucous which appears often even after cleaning, seek medical advice as this may be due to an eye infection called conjunctivitis which may require an eye antibiotic.

Should this be the case it is important to ensure good hand washing following cleaning your baby’s eyes.

Ensure your baby has their own separate towel to the other household members to prevent spread of infection.

Cradle cap is a common scalp condition which may be seen on a young baby’s scalp. It consists of non-itchy greasy yellow or brown scales, which sometimes flake and become red.

It is harmless and often clears up on its own after a few weeks or months.

It is advisable not to pick off the scales as this can sometimes lead to infection. Gentle massaging the scalp with a natural oil such as olive oil onto the scalp and leaving it over night will help to loosen the scales. Any loose scales can be removed the next day using a soft baby brush or soft cloth. If this does not help, over the counter shampoos are available from pharmacies.

If the cradle cap does not settle or becomes red and inflamed or itchy seek medical advice.

Oral thrush is a fungal infection in the mouth and is commonly seen in babies and young children. It appears as a white coating or white patches which may be seen on your baby’s tongue, lips or gums. These white patches are not easy to rub off as they would if they were from a milk coating following a milk feed.

Oral thrush occurs in babies because their immune systems have not fully developed and they are less resistant to infection. Should your health visitor or GP feel that this needs treating, they can prescribe an antifungal medicine.

  • It is important that the antifungal medicine is continued to be used for two days after the infection has cleared up. This will help to prevent the oral thrush from returning
  • Always ensure that all feeding equipment is correctly and regularly sterilized including dummies to prevent the infection returning
  • Good hand hygiene is essential
Advice for breastfeeding mothers

A breastfed baby with oral thrush can sometimes pass a thrush infection onto it’s mother, which may affect the mother’s nipples or breasts. We call this nipple thrush – click here for further information on nipple thrush.

Excessive crying could be a sign that your baby has colic. No-one knows what causes colic, but it is thought that it is a kind of stomach cramp, and it does seem to cause the kind of crying that might go with waves of stomach pain – miserable and distressed, stopping for a moment or two, than starting up again.

The crying can go on for hours and there may be little you can do except try to comfort you baby and wait for the crying to pass. In most cases, the intense crying occurs in the later afternoon or evening and usually lasts for several hours. You may notice that your baby’s face becomes flushed, and they may clench their fists, draw their knees up to their tummy, or arch their back. Colic usually begins within the first few weeks of life but often stops by the time your baby is four months old, and by six months at the latest.

If your baby has colic, they appear to be in distress. However, the crying outbursts are not harmful and your baby will continue to feed and gain weight normally. There is no clear evidence that colic has any long-term effect on a baby’s health.

If you are concerned, talk to your health visitor or GP. It can be a good idea to make a list of the questions you want to ask so you don’t forget anything. It can help if you keep a record of how often and when your baby cries, e.g. after every feed or during the evening.

Keeping a record can also identify times when you need extra help. You could think about possible changes to your routine e.g. if your baby tends to cry a lot in the afternoon and you have got into the habit of going out in the morning, try going out in the afternoon instead and see if that helps.

Nappy rash can occur in most babies at some time but more commonly within the first 18 months.

It is generally caused by:

  • certain soaps and baby wipes
  • diarrhoea
  • rubbing and chaffing
Tips to improve nappy rash or alleviate symptoms:

  • try to change wet and soiled nappies as soon as they are soiled.
  • aim to change nappies 10-12 times a day in young babies
  • aim to change 6-8 times in older babies
  • allow baby to lie on a towel with nappy off for short intervals, to allow the skin to dry and heal.
  • apply a good barrier cream
  • use water and cotton wool rather than baby wipes to clean nappy area
If the rash appears bright red, prolonged or with white or red pimples present, seek medical advice as this may be due to nappy thrush.

Coughs, colds and sniffles are common in children, as it helps the body to build up a natural immune system.

Helpful home treatments:

  • Give your child lots of fluids to drink
  • Give paracetamol if a fever is present following the guidelines on the packaging
  • Avoid smoky environments

Flu tends to be more serious than a cold and can make your child feel quite unwell. Flu often occurs quickly and is accompanied with aches and pains and often lasts for a week or longer.

  • Has a fever of 38° c or above.
  • They have a rash with a fever.
  • Appear drowsy and or are not waking.
  • Is finding breathing difficult.
Rashes in children could indicate: 

  • urticaria or hives
  • chicken pox
  • meningitis

Meningitis is not common but is a serious and contagious disease, which causes swelling around the brain. Early treatment is essential in order to enable your child to make a full recovery.

 Signs of meningitis include:

  • cold or flu
  • clusters of red or purple spots (the glass test should be carried out). Look for spots which do not fade under pressure


Other symptoms include:

  • a fever
  • cold hands and feet
  • drowsy and difficult to wake
  • floppy and unresponsive
  • rapid breathing or grunting
  • vomiting and refusing feeds
  • neck stiffness or a stiff neck
  • skin that is pale, blotchy or turning blue
  • a high pitched cry


Seek medical advice immediately if any of the above symptoms are present

These childhood rashes are common and usually there is no need to worry as most are harmless and will disappear on their own.

Urticaria presents as a raised red, itchy rash on the skin. These are generally caused by a trigger such as certain foods. Some examples of these triggers include:

  • strawberries
  • fish
  • tomatoes
  • garden nettles
  • latex
  • peanuts
  • changes in temperature
  • certain medicines

This rash is often mild and last only a few days and often does not need treatment. Seek medical advice if your child develops spots or a rash which you are concerned about.

Chicken pox is a mild, common infectious disease which most children will contact at some point. The spots present very quickly starting on the face, neck or upper body. They initially appear like a mosquito bite and then appear like small sac filled spots, which are very itchy and sore. Try using calamine lotion to soothe and prevent itching. If your child has a fever or is in pain, use liquid paracetamol as instructed by the manufacturer’s instructions.

Measles is a very infectious disease. Vaccination of MMR is the only way of preventing it as there is no treatment.1:5 children with measles will experience complications including ear infection, diarrhoea and vomiting, pneumonia, eye disorders or meningitis. 1:10 children will be admitted to hospital due to complications.


  • Bad cold and cough with watery eyes
  • Gradually becoming unwell with a temperature
  • Rash – usually begins behind the ears and spreads to face and neck

Home treatment include giving fluids and painkillers. If you think your child may have measles, seek medical advice.

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