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

Signs of serious illness:


(See Fever)

Contact your GP, health visitor or practice nurse
if your baby has:

  • A temperature of 38°C or higher (if they’re under three months).
  • A temperature of 39°C or higher (if they’re three to six months).



  • 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 disorientated or confused.

  • They are crying constantly or the cry doesn't sound like their normal cry.

  • A spotty, purple-red rash anywhere on the body that doesn't fade when you press a glass against it - this could be a sign of meningitis (See Meningitis and sepsis).

  • Green vomit.

  • Your child has a fit (convulsion or seizure) for the first time.

  • Your child is under eight weeks old and doesn't want to feed.

  • Nappies that aren't very wet - this is a sign of dehydration.

If your child has any of these signs, get medical help as soon as possible.

Paracetamol can be given to children over two months old for pain and fever. Make sure you've got the right strength for your child. Overdosing is dangerous. Check with your pharmacist when you buy it, and read the label carefully. Ibuprofen can be given for pain and fever in children of three months and over who weigh more than 5kg (11lbs). Check the correct dose for your child's age.