Caring for children in an emergency

When to attend A&E or ring 999 for an ambulance

  • Blacking out
  • Suspected meningitis
  • Choking
  • Fitting (seizures)
  • Struggling to breathe
  • Bleeding that won’t stop.

Our hospitals A&E departments provide urgent treatment for serious, life-threatening conditions. You should take your child to A&E yourself if possible but if your child is too ill, dial 999 for an ambulance. How to access local emergency services.

What all parents should have at home - a basic first aid kit

  • Liquid paracetamol or ibruprofen
  • A thermometer – always test your child’s temperature before contacting or visiting a health professional
  • Antiseptic cream and plasters
  • Oral rehydration solution suitable for your child’s age

Your local pharmacist can help with all of these.

For round-the-clock medical information and confidential advice, call NHS 111. This is a free service. Most infections are viral infections, which cannot be treated by antibiotics. This includes cold and flu.

For further advice on caring for an unwell child, download this factsheet.

Common illnesses

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Respiratory illness (bronchiolitis) is an illness in babies that is more common in winter. 

Dial 999 or go to A&E if your baby:

  • is having difficulty breathing.
  • has a blue tongue or lips.
  • has long pauses in their breathing.

Find out more about RSV and what to do.

For simple advice on what to do and what to look for download this bronchiolitis advice sheet(PDF).

Diarrhoea and vomiting

Diarrhoea and vomiting is common in children and babies. It is often caused by a stomach bug and in most cases will stop in a few days. You can usually treat your child at home. Speak to your local pharmacist about the best way to treat either illness. They should have lots of fluids to avoid dehydration.

Find out more about the symptoms and what to do.

Find out more about common causes of stomach ache.

For simple advice on what to do and what to look for download this diarrhoea and vomiting advice sheet (PDF).

High temperature (fever)

A high temperature is very common in young children. The temperature usually returns to normal within 3 or 4 days. A normal temperature in babies and children is about 36.4C, but this can vary slightly from child to child.

A high temperature is 38C or more.

Find out more about the symptoms and what to do.

For simple advice on what to look for and what to do download this fever advice sheet (PDF).

Use the NHS website to find your nearest GP surgery or pharmacy.

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