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Is your baby or toddler seriously ill?

It can be difficult to tell when a baby or toddler is seriously ill, but the main thing is to trust your instincts.

You know better than anyone else what your child is usually like, so you'll know when something is seriously wrong.

Signs of serious illness in a baby or toddler

Here's a checklist of warning signs that might be serious:


  • a high temperature, but cold feet and hands
  • a high temperature that does not come down with paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • a very high or low temperature
  • your child feels hot or cold to touch, or is shivering
  • your child is quiet and listless, even when their temperature is not high
  • a high temperature in a baby less than 8 weeks old

Read more about how to take your child's temperature and fever in children.


  • rapid breathing or panting
  • a throaty noise while breathing
  • your child is finding it hard to get their breath and is sucking their stomach in under their ribs

Other signs

  • blue, pale, blotchy, or ashen (grey) skin
  • your child is hard to wake up, or appears disoriented or confused
  • your child is crying constantly and you cannot console or distract them, or the cry does not sound like their normal cry
  • green vomit
  • your child has a febrile seizure (fit) for the first time
  • your 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 your child has any of these signs, get medical help as soon as possible:

  • during the day from Monday to Friday – it's best to call your GP practice
  • evenings and weekends – call NHS 111
  • if your baby is under 6 months old it's hard for a doctor or nurse to assess them over the phone – you can go to an urgent care (walk-in) centre or, if you're very worried, take them to A&E

Find your nearest urgent care centre.

Find your nearest A&E.


At the moment it can be hard to know what to do if your child is unwell. 

It's important to trust your instincts and get medical help if you need it.

When to call an ambulance

Call 999 for an ambulance if your child:

  • stops breathing
  • will not wake up
  • has a spotty, purple or red rash anywhere on their body that does not fade when you press a glass against it – this could be a sign of blood poisoning (sepsis)
  • is under 8 weeks old and you're very worried about them
  • has a febrile seizure (fit) for the first time, even if they seem to recover
  • has a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
  • if you think someone may have seriously injured your baby

Again, trust your instincts. You know what's different or worrying behaviour in your child.

Spot the signs of childhood diseases

Learn the signs of serious illnesses that can affect children, including:

Page last reviewed: 14 February 2020
Next review due: 14 February 2023