Get urgent medical help if your child is very unwell

Immediate action required: Call 112 or 999 or go to the nearest emergency department (ED) 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 – (use the 'glass test')
  • has had a febrile seizure (fit) (cannot stop shaking) lasting longer than 5 minutes or has more than 1 seizure in 5 minutes
  • has a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
  • has pale, blotchy, blue or grey skin
  • feels unusually cold to touch
  • has rapid breathing or panting
  • makes a throaty noise while breathing
  • is finding it hard to get their breath and is sucking their stomach in under their ribs
  • is becoming agitated or unresponsive or does not seem to know you
  • is going blue around the lips
  • becomes extremely distressed (does not stop crying) or the cry does not sound like their normal cry

Always get immediate help if it is a life-threatening emergency. For example, if your child is choking, unconscious, or has a serious cut or injury.

When to phone 112 or 999 for a life-threatening emergency

Trust your instincts

It can be difficult to tell when a baby or toddler is seriously ill. 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.

Don't wait to get help

Do not put off getting medical help if you think your child needs it. Your child has a better chance of recovery from any medical condition if they see a doctor quickly.

Urgent advice: Call your GP urgently if your child:

  • is under 3 months old and has a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher, or you think they have a fever
  • is under 3 months old and you're very worried about them
  • has a high temperature that does not come down with paracetamol or ibuprofen (do not give paracetamol to a baby under 2 months and do not give ibuprofen to a baby under 3 months or under 5kg, unless prescribed by a doctor)
  • has a low temperature (below 36 degrees Celsius)
  • feels hot or cold to touch, or is shivering
  • has had a febrile seizure (fit) (cannot stop shaking) for the first time, even if they seem to recover
  • is quiet and listless, even when their temperature is not high
  • becomes drowsy (very sleepy) or irritable and you can not settle them with toys, food, TV or picking them up - especially if this happens after their temperature has come down
  • is under 3 months old and does not want to feed
  • is not drinking fluids
  • has unusually dry nappies or is having less than 4 wet nappies over a 24 hour period – this is a sign of dehydration
  • is vomiting most of their feeds
  • is 6 months or older and is vomiting any fluids they drink, or they have a lot of diarrhoea
  • has sunken eyes, has a dry mouth or no tears when they're crying
  • complains of muscle pain
  • is getting worse or if you are worried about their symptoms
  • is vomiting constantly and has severe abdominal (tummy) pain that won’t go away
  • has green vomit
  • has severe tummy pain

Also call your GP urgently if the soft spot on your baby's head is very sunken or tense and raised.

If you cannot get an appointment

If you cannot get an appointment with your GP today, ask if another GP can see you.

Phone the GP out-of-hours service in your area if your GP surgery is closed and your child needs to be seen urgently.

Find an out-of-hours GP

GP visits are usually free

GP visits are usually free for babies and very young children. All children under 6 can get a GP visit card.

If you have a medical card or a GP visit card for your child, you will not be charged to see the out-of-hours GP.

If you do not have a medical card or GP visit card for your child, you may have to pay. This is often slightly higher than what your regular GP would charge.

Spot the signs of childhood conditions

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

COVID-19

It's rare for COVID-19 (coronavirus) to cause severe illness in children, but it can happen.

This is why your GP may need to rule COVID-19 out first. Your child may need a test for COVID-19.

If your child has symptoms of COVID-19

Page last reviewed: 19 December 2022
Next review due: 19 December 2025