Pregnancy and baby

Looking after a sick child

How do I look after a sick child? (18 to 30 months)

Media last reviewed: 10/02/2015

Next review due: 10/02/2017

If your child is ill the most important thing to do is to listen to them. If they say they don't need to be in bed, they probably don't. They might feel better on the sofa with a blanket or duvet.

Whether they're in bed or on the sofa, the following will help them feel more comfortable. 

  • Keep the room airy without being draughty. If the room is too warm they'll probably feel worse.
  • Give your child plenty to drink. For the first day or so don't bother about food unless they want it. After that start trying to tempt them with bits of food and encouraging them to have nutritious drinks like milk.
  • Try to give your child time for quiet games, stories, company and comfort.
  • Sick children get very tired and need plenty of rest. Encourage your child to doze off when he or she needs to, perhaps with a story read by you or on tape or CD.
  • Never fall asleep with a sick baby on the sofa with you, even if you're both exhausted. This increases the chances of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). 

See more about reducing the risk of SIDS.

Looking after a sick child, even for a couple of days, is exhausting. Make things as easy for yourself as you can. Get rest and sleep when you can, and try to get somebody else to take over every now and then to give you a break.

Medical help for child illness

Your health visitor, practice nurse, nurse practitioner, GP and pharmacist can all give you advice on how to treat your child's illness. Your GP can treat your child and prescribe medicines. Some health visitors, nurses and pharmacists can also diagnose illness and prescribe medicines for your child.

If your child is ill you can try your local pharmacy first. They will tell you if your child needs to see a GP. If your child has signs of serious illness contact your GP directly or take them straight to the A&E department of your local hospital.

Most GP surgeries are very supportive towards parents of small children. Some will fit babies into surgeries without an appointment or see them at the beginning of surgery hours. Many GPs will also give advice over the phone.

If you find it difficult to contact your doctor or get to the surgery you can call NHS 111 for medical advice, 24 hours a day.

Dealing with children's minor accidents

Many GP surgeries, minor injury units, walk-in centres and pharmacies are equipped to deal with minor casualties, such as cuts or items trapped in the nose or ear. In this situation, ask your GP or NHS 111 for advice on where to go before you go to A&E.

Further information

Page last reviewed: 23/09/2015

Next review due: 23/09/2017


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