Dr Zoe reveals the signs your child is seriously unwell – and what to do about it


It’s an instinct, as a parent you are hardwired to worry about your baby. 

As a GP I have heard just about every concern there is.

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Most babies will become poorly in their first year as they’re busy building their immune system[/caption]

Most little ones will become poorly, especially in their first year, as they’re busy building their immune system.

Stories like those shared by Dawn and Charlotte are enough to leave any mum terrified.

While harrowing, it’s important to know that they are rare.

Most of the time, when your baby falls ill, it will be a minor bug that passes – they’re fairly robust little things.

But I get asked a lot by worried parents, ‘how do I know if I should really worry?’

1. Trust your gut

This one is not so much a sign as a feeling, deep in your gut. 

The main thing I tell my patients is to trust your instincts, it’s a powerful thing.

It can be hard sometimes to tell if your child is ill, but you know them better than anyone.

That means, you are much more likely to spot when something is seriously wrong.

2. Playing up

The hardest thing about having a poorly baby is the fact they can’t tell you what’s wrong.

So watch out for a change in behaviour.

James Cannon

Dr Zoe Williams reveals the signs to look out for in poorly children[/caption]

Have you noticed they’re sleeping longer than usual? Perhaps you’re struggling to get them up for a feed?

If they’re drowsy or sluggish or not as responsive to stimulations then they could be ill.

If their energy levels have dipped it could be a sign of cold or flu, or something more serious like meningitis.

3. Non-stop crying

At a very young age, crying is a baby’s only way of communicating.

Different cries mean different things – from hunger to a nappy change, or just needing a cuddle.

And as a parent, you gradually get to know what each one means.

If they are crying inconsolably it could be colic, which is when they cry non-stop for a prolonged period.

But if they’re fussy and crying for prolonged periods it might be more serious such as abdominal pain, an earache or an infection.

In which case it’s best to see the GP.

4. Hot to touch

When it comes to little ones, a normal temperature is about 36.4C, but this will vary slightly.

A baby’s temperature is considered high if it’s 38C or above.

You can generally tell, if their skin is hotter to touch, sweaty or clammy and they have flushed cheeks.

If your child is quiet and listless or younger than eight weeks, it’s worth seeing your GP.

5. Other signs

There are other warning signs that are worth noting, including:

  • Blue, pale or blotchy skin
  • Rapid breathing or panting
  • A throaty noise when breathing
  • Your child is finding it hard to catch their breath, and is sucking their tummy in under their ribs
  • If your child is hard to wake up or seems confused
  • Green vomit
  • Your child has a seizure 
  • Your baby is under eight weeks old and doesn’t want to feed
  • Nappies that are drier than usual – a sign of dehydration

If your child has any of these signs, get medical help as soon as you can. You can call your GP practice, NHS 111 or if you are really worried go to A&E.

When it comes to the most precious things in your life, it pays to be vigilant.

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