HEALTH

62sick baby

Looking after your ill child

Every child gets ill occasionally and every parent has had that feeling of anxiety as they see their normally cheerful child looking sad and listless. Most bouts of illness pass quickly and leave children better able to resist the next attack. Sometimes, if the illness or accident is serious, immediate (and possibly long-term) help is needed. This section deals with common childhood illnesses and accidents, the best ways to prevent them, and the action to take in an emergency.

Knowing when your child is ill

Sometimes there’s no doubt. However often it’s difficult to tell whether a child is ill. Children may be listless, hot and miserable one minute, and running around quite happily the next. Watch out for:
· Some sign of illness (like vomiting, a temperature, cough, runny nose or runny eyes).
· Behaviour that’s unusual for your child (like a lot of crying, being very irritable, refusing food and drink, being listless or drowsy).
Possible signs of illness are always more worrying if affecting a baby or small child.
If your child is older and you’re not sure whether or not to see the doctor, you might want to carry on normally for a while and see whether the signs of illness or pain continue. It might be best not to let your child see you watching. Most children can put on an act, especially if they see you’re worried.
Above all, trust your feelings. You know better than anyone what your child is like day-to-day, so you’ll know what’s unusual or worrying. If you’re worried, contact your doctor. Even if it turns out that nothing is wrong, after all, that is exactly what you need to know.
If you have seen your GP or health visitor and your baby isn’t getting better or is getting worse, contact your GP again the same day. If you become worried and you can’t get hold of your GP or he/she can’t come to you quickly enough, then take your baby straight to the Accident and Emergency department of the nearest hospital, one with a children’s ward if possible. It’s worth finding out in advance where this is, in case you ever need it.
If you’re seriously worried and/or know your child needs urgent attention, phone your GP at any time of the day or night. There may be a different number for when the surgery is closed. If you can’t contact a GP, go directly to the nearest Accident and Emergency department.

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Using Your GP

Most practices are very supportive towards parents of small children. Many will fit babies into surgeries without an appointment, or see them at the beginning of surgery hours. Many doctors will give advice over the phone. Others will feel that it is essential to see your child.
Some GPs are less helpful and it’s not always easy to phone or to get to the surgery. Even so, if you’re worried about a particular problem that won’t go away, it’s right to persist. 
Your health visitor and/or clinic doctor can give you advice and help you decide whether your child is really unwell or not. But it’s only your family doctor (your GP) who can treat your child and prescribe medicines. If you think your child is ill, it’s best to see your GP.
If you’re unsure whether to go to the surgery or ask for a home visit, phone and talk to the receptionist or to your GP. Explain how your child is and what’s worrying you. Often it doesn’t do a child (or anyone else) any harm to be taken to the surgery, and you’re likely to get attention more quickly this way. Explain if it’s difficult for you to get there. Wrapping a sick child up and going by car is one thing; going on the bus might be impossible.
Symptoms and signs that are always urgent:
· A fit (convulsion), if your baby turns blue or very pale (in a dark-skinned baby check the palms of the hands) or seems floppy.
· A very high temperature (over 39ºC), especially if there’s a rash.
· Difficult, fast or grunting breathing.
· Unusually drowsy, hard to wake or doesn’t seem to know you.
· A temperature, but the skin of the hands and feet feels cold and clammy.
· A purple-red rash anywhere on the body – this could be a sign of meningitis.
Sick babies –
always contact your doctor if:
· You think your baby’s ill, even if you can’t make out what’s wrong.
· Your baby has one or more of the problems listed above.

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