When to see the Doctor

This can be a difficult decision. On this page we have listed the symptoms and signs which mean your child should be seen by a doctor. If you are not sure whether or not your child has one of the symptoms listed below, then ring your GP or 111 for advice.

Normal symptoms which usually can be safely managed at home are described on the common symptoms page.

Normal symptoms will often get worse and then better over the day, so watching your child’s illness over time is useful. More severe illnesses will usually get worse and worse.

Breathing problems

Signs of breathing problems:

  • Rapid breathing
    • Babies under 6 months = over 60 breaths per minute.
    • Babies 6-12 months = over 50 breaths per minute.
    • Children over 1 year = over 40 breaths per minute.
  • Being short of breath (as if your child has been running) or is ‘working hard’ to breath when your child is resting.
  • Skin between the ribs and below the ribs gets sucked in each time your child takes a breath. 

Skin paler than usual

If your child appears much paler than usual; hands and feet are very cold while their body is warm. If skin, lips or tongue appear blue, call 999.

Fever

Depending on the age of the child:

  • under 3 months: Temperature of 38°C or more.
  • 3 – 6 months: Temperature of 39°C or more.
  • Child over 6 months who has a temperature for more than 5 days.

If your child has a fever fit, call 999 or take them to A&E.

Pain

For a chesty cough:

  •  Pain in the chest (not when coughing) combined with fever and rapid breathing.

Hard to wake/unresponsive

Cannot be woken or wakes only slightly and then immediately goes back to sleep. If your child wakes only with lots of stimulation, or is much less responsive to social stimulation (smiles and talking) than usual. 

Not feeding

Babies under 1 year: if your child stops feeding entirely

Vomiting

Depending on age:

  • Babies under 3 months: vomiting + fever of 38°C or above.
  • Babies of 3-6 months: vomiting + fever of 39°C or above.
  • Children of over 6 months: vomiting + fever + other signs unwell e.g. very drowsy or listless.
  • Any age: Severe vomiting (child not able to hold down fluids for 8 hours or showing signs of dehydration)
  • Any age: Persistent vomiting (more than 2 days).

The information on this page is taken from the current NICE guidelines on management of feverish children.

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