Emergency care - babies and children

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.

Find out when to:

When to phone 112 or 999 for a child

Phone 112 or 999 and ask for an ambulance if your child:

  • is unconscious, especially if they had a recent fall or a head injury
  • is not breathing or turning blue around the lips or face
  • is choking - first aid help if your child is choking
  • has taken medication, poison or chemicals and you cannot wake them up
  • is having a severe allergic reaction - this could include noisy breathing or difficulty breathing
  • has a large cut and you are unable to stop the bleeding
  • has a seizure for the first time
  • has a seizure disorder and has a seizure lasting more than 5 minutes or has 1 seizure after another
  • has a rash that does not fade away when you press a glass firmly against it (use the 'glass test')

Emergency action required: Phone 112 or 999 if:

you need urgent medical help

If it is not a life-threatening emergency, you can go to an emergency department without calling an ambulance.

When to go to an emergency department

If you think your child needs to go to an emergency department (ED), bring them to an ED that treats children.

Your nearest ED that treats children may be in a children’s hospital, if in Dublin. Outside of Dublin, most hospital EDs treat both adults and children.

Go to an ED if your child:

  • is hard to wake, unusually drowsy or does not seem to know you
  • is breathing unusually, either faster or slower than usual, or grunting
  • has a high temperature and severe headache or neck stiffness
  • has had a head injury and vomits more than once
  • has a large burn or scald, or if the burn or scald is on their hands, face or genitals
  • has an eye injury
  • has a persistent fever, or feels unusually cold or floppy
  • has an unusual or high-pitched cry
  • has a hoarse cough with noisy breathing or is wheezing
  • is wheezing and is unable to speak
  • has taken medication, a poison or a chemical
  • has been bitten by an animal, unless it's a minor wound - help with bites and scratches from pets
  • gets an electric shock
  • has something stuck in their eye, ear or nose

Injury units

Injury units are available in some parts of the country. They treat injuries that are not life-threatening.

Find out what injuries are treated in an injury unit

Most injury units treat patients over 5 years of age. Some injury units have higher age limits.

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 see your GP

If you are worried about your child, contact your GP or public health nurse for advice.

Many GPs will provide advice over the phone.

They would prefer to advise you now and stop a child from getting seriously unwell later.

When to see your GP today

Bring your child to your GP today if they have any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • The soft spot on your baby’s head is sunken or raised.
  • A temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or higher if under 3 months of age.
  • A temperature of 39 degrees Celsius or higher if age 3 months or over.
  • Your baby is not taking feeds.
  • Your child is not drinking fluids.
  • Your baby has unusually dry nappies or is having less than 4 wet nappies over a 24 hour period.
  • Your baby is vomiting most of their feeds.
  • Your child is 6 months or older and is vomiting any fluids they drink, or they have a lot of diarrhoea.
  • A head injury but awake and not vomiting.
  • Severe tummy pain.
  • A minor bite from an animal.

If you cannot get an appointment

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

GP charges

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. All children under 6 years living in Ireland can get a GP visit card.

You may have to pay a fee to see the out-of-hours GP if you do not have a medical card or GP visit card for your child. This is often slightly higher than what your regular GP would charge.

When to see GP in next few days

Make an appointment to see your GP in the next few days if:

  • your baby is not gaining weight or is losing weight
  • your child has a mild fever (a temperature of less than 38 degrees Celcius) that lasts for more than 2 to 3 days
  • your child has a sore ear or a sore throat
  • your child has vomiting or diarrhoea but is able to keep fluids down
  • your child has a cough that is not going away or a mild wheeze
  • your child has a rash that fades when a glass is pressed against it

What to do if your child has symptoms of COVID-19

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