Your guide to common childhood illnesses
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This learning contains information to help you to advise parents on some common childhood illnesses:
- Managing pain and fever in children
- Advice for parents around vaccination
- How to reassure parents of children with earache
- Helping children who are affected by coughs and colds
Paracetamol or ibuprofen can be used in children for common ailments such headache, colds, earache and fever.1,2 There are also other products that parents can purchase from the pharmacy to help get their little one back to themselves again.
- COUGHS & COLDS
If a child has any of the following, they should be referred to their GP straight away:3,4
- Feeling generally unwell or other symptoms like vomiting, severe sore throat or dizziness
- A very high temperature
- Swelling around the ear or fluid coming out of the ear
- Has put something in the ear that is stuck
- Any hearing loss or changes to their hearing
Children under 2 years old with earache in both ears should also be referred, as well as children who keep getting ear infections or those who have no symptom improvement after 3 days.
Children with other underlying long-term medical conditions (e.g. diabetes) or those with a weakened immune system should also be referred.4
Parents may be concerned about what is normal in terms of teeth developing. You can reassure them that teething timelines can vary; some babies may be born with their first teeth already present.
Teething generally starts at around 6 months, but this can vary from before 4 months of age, and for some babies it may not happen until they are over a year. They usually get the bottom front teeth first, but again, this varies from child to child. It's also helpful to remind parents to start caring for the teeth by brushing them as soon as they start to appear.
Sometimes there can be other symptoms such as fever or diarrhoea that a parent may think is part of teething, but there isn't evidence to support this. If there are other symptoms that are concerning the parent, refer them to their GP.5
If a child has a cough that lasts more than three weeks, a cough that is worse at night, a cough that is brought on by running around, wheezes or is struggling to breathe, or has an associated fever, refer them to their GP.
A cough that has a barking sound may be croup, which can be diagnosed by a GP and managed at home, unless symptoms are severe, in which case they need urgent treatment (dial 999 or send to A&E).6
Babies should be vaccinated against whooping cough. Whooping cough causes coughing bouts that last for a few minutes and are worse at night. There may be a 'whooping' sound as they take a breath between coughs, but young babies may not get this. A baby under 6 months of age with signs of whooping cough should be referred urgently to a GP, or call 111 as they are at risk of pneumonia, breathing difficulties, dehydration and seizures.7
COVID-19: If a child has any symptoms of COVID-19 (a high temperature, a new continuous cough or loss or change to sense of smell or taste) they should get a PCR test as soon as possible. Check nhs.uk for the latest guidance and advice.