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Get urgent medical help if your child is very unwell

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

Follow the advice on this page if there is an emergency with a baby or child. There is different advice on emergency care for adults.

Emergency action required: Call 112 or 999 or go to the nearest emergency department (ED) if:

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

When to call 112 or 999

Call 112 or 999 or go to the nearest emergency department (ED) if your child:


  • stops breathing
  • has rapid breathing or panting
  • suddenly making loud noises when breathing in or out
  • is finding it hard to get their breath and is sucking their stomach in under their ribs


  • has a high temperature and severe headache or neck stiffness
  • has a persistent fever, or feels unusually cold or floppy

Other signs

  • difficult to wake up or they are unable to stay awake
  • has had a febrile seizure (fit) (cannot stop shaking) lasting longer than 5 minutes
  • has more than 1 seizure in 5 minutes
  • has a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
  • has pale, blotchy, blue or grey skin
  • is going blue around the lips
  • is becoming agitated, confused or does not seem to know you
  • becomes extremely distressed (does not stop crying) or the cry does not sound like their normal cry
  • has limb pain
  • has a spotty, purple or red rash anywhere on their body that does not fade when you use the 'glass test'

Do not wait to get help

Do not put off getting medical help if you think your child needs it. Even if your child has been seen before, get help if they get worse or are not improving as expected.

Injury units

Injury units treat injuries that are not life-threatening. For example, broken bones, dislocations, and burns.

Most injury units will not treat any child younger than 5 years.

CHI urgent care centre

Children's Health Ireland (CHI) has an urgent care centre based in Dublin.

They treat minor injuries and illnesses that are not life-threatening. For example, vomiting, burns, sprains and broken bones.

Find out more about the CHI urgent care centre

When to call your GP

In general, call your GP if:

  • your child is not improving or if you are worried about their symptoms

When to call your GP urgently

You should call your GP urgently if your child has any of the signs below.


Your child:

  • is under 3 months old and has a temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher, or you think they have a fever
  • 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


Your child:

  • 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


Your child:

  • 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
  • is vomiting constantly and has severe abdominal (tummy) pain that won’t go away
  • has green vomit

Other signs

  • the soft spot on your baby's head is very sunken or tense and raised

Your child:

  • 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
  • has sunken eyes, has a dry mouth or no tears when they're crying
  • complains of muscle pain
  • has severe tummy pain

If you cannot get a GP 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

Page last reviewed: 14 July 2023
Next review due: 14 July 2026