When your little one is a baby, you are likely to spend more time in out of hours or the doctor’s surgery than at any other time in your life. Temperatures, rashes, coughs, persistent crying: all of these can leave you with no choice but to seek medical advice at all hours of the day or night. The question is, when is it really necessary for babies to go to out of hours, and when can you deal with problems and illnesses at home?
The temptation with many new parents is to see a doctor with almost every minor concern. Although this is understandable, NHS services are under pressure and anything that can be taken care of at home should be so that NHS services can continue without any unnecessary delays.
When Do I Need To Call A Doctor?
Babies will suffer all sorts of coughs, colds and bugs, most of which are easily dealt with at home. However, their young age can also mean they are more vulnerable when they do become unwell. As they grow older, their immune systems will develop and you will have less need to turn to a doctor. In the mean time, if any of the following symptoms apply to your child, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. If this is outside of normal surgery hours, you can contact your local out of hours service by calling NHS Direct on 111:
- 3 months or younger: a temperature of 38 degrees or higher
- 3-6 months: a temperature of 39 degrees or higher
- Dehydration: symptoms can include a dry mouth or lips, dark yellow wee, or less frequently wet nappies
- Six or more episodes of diarrhoea in 24 hours, or diarrhoea which lasts more than 5-7 days
- Bad tummy pain
- Repeated vomiting
- 1 month or younger: red, sticky eyes
- Bleeding or discharge from the navel while the umbilical stump is healing.
A+E And Emergency Services – When Are They Necessary?
You will need to take your child to A+E if you spot any of the following:
- A persistent temperature
- Your child is floppy and drowsy
- They have swallowed something harmful
- They are showing minor signs of an allergic reaction (not including difficulty breathing – if this is the case, dial 999 immediately). Symptoms could include a raised, red, itchy rash which spreads and develops quickly
- Your child has an object lodged firmly in their nose or ear. Do not try to remove this yourself.
You will need to dial 999 if:
- Your child is having difficulty breathing
- They are showing one or more signs of meningitis or septicaemia
- They are showing any symptoms of sepsis during an infection
- They have a cut which bleeds persistently
- Your child has a fit for the first time, or which lasts for longer than 5 minutes
- A burn or scald bigger than your child’s hand
- A battery has been swallowed
Treating Minor Illnesses At Home
If your baby is unwell but is not displaying any of these symptoms, you can treat them at home with baby-suitable medication containing paracetamol or ibuprofen (not to be used in cases of chicken pox). Common illnesses which can be treated at home may include:
- Chicken pox
- Common Cold
- Tummy bugs (unless any of the above criteria is met)
- Hand-Foot-And-Mouth Disease
- Slapped-Cheek Syndrome
Even though you can deal with these illnesses yourself, you can still call NHS Direct on 111 for advice on how best to treat a specific illness, for help diagnosing an illness, or if you are concerned and unsure whether a doctor’s appointment is necessary.