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Our Favourite Tips to Recognise When Something is Seriously Wrong

If you your baby or child is ill, or hurt, it can be difficult to judge how serious it is and whether you can treat them at home, need to visit your GP, or phone an ambulance


The experts at First Aid for Life have shared with us the symptoms that should always be treated as serious.

Seek medical help immediately:

  • If your baby is unwell with a high-pitched, weak or continuous cry
  • If your baby or child is lethargic, floppy or generally unresponsive
  • If the soft spot on your baby's head (their fontanelle) is bulging and they are unwell
  • Your child has not taken fluids for more than eight hours (taking solid food is not as important)
  • If your baby is less than three months old, and has a temperature of over 38°C, or if your baby is three to six months old, and has a temperature of over 39°C, or a raised temperature that you are unable to bring down
  • If they have a high temperature, with accompanying cold feet and hands
  • If they are having fits, convulsions or seizures
  • If they are turning blue, very pale, mottled or ashen
  • If they are having difficulty breathing, breathing fast, grunting while breathing, or if your child is working hard to breathe, for example, sucking their stomach in under their ribs
  • If they are repeatedly vomiting or producing bile-stained (green) vomit

It can be difficult to know when to call an ambulance or go to the Accident and Emergency (A&E) department, but the following may be useful as a guide.

Take your child to A&E if they:

  • Have a fever and are persistently lethargic despite taking paediatric paracetamol or ibuprofen
  • Have abdominal pain
  • Have a cut that may need stitching or they have amputated a finger
  • Have a leg or arm injury that means they can't use the limb.

Call an ambulance for your child if they:

  • Stop breathing
  • Are struggling to breathe (you may notice a sucking in under the ribcage)
  • Are unconscious or seem unaware of what's going on
  • Won't wake up
  • Fall from a height or are hit at speed by a moving object
  • Have a major head injury
  • Have a burn that has blistered or lost skin and is larger than the size of a 50p piece
  • Have swallowed a poison or tablets
  • Are having difficulty breathing (breathing fast or panting, or very wheezy)
  • Have a fit for the first time, even if they seem to recover.

Most importantly - trust your instincts. You know better than anyone what your child is usually like, so you'll know what's different or worrying.

It is strongly advised that you attend a Practical or Online First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit www.firstaidforlife.org.uk, www.onlinefirstaid.com, or email [email protected] or tel 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.

First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.

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