Published Tue, 2011-03-15 11:43; updated 1 year ago.

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If your child is ill the most important thing to do is to listen to them.

If they say they don't need to be in bed, they probably don't. They might feel better on the sofa with a blanket or duvet.

Whether they're in bed or on the sofa the following will help them feel more comfortable. 

  • Keep the room airy without being draughty. If the room is too warm they'll probably feel worse.
  • Give your child plenty to drink. For the first day or so don't bother about food unless they want it. After that start trying to tempt them with bits of food and encouraging them to have nutritious drinks like milk.
  • Try to give your child time for quiet games, stories, company and comfort.
  • Sick children get very tired and need plenty of rest. Encourage your child to doze off when he or she needs to, perhaps with a story read by you or on tape.
  • Never fall asleep with a sick baby on the sofa with you, even if you're both exhausted. This increases the chances of cot death. For further information about reducing the risk of cot death see Useful links.

Looking after a sick child, even for a couple of days, is exhausting. Make things as easy for yourself as you can. Get rest and sleep when you can, and try to get somebody else to take over every now and then to give you a break.

Getting expert help

If you think your child is ill contact your local pharmacy first. (If they have signs of serious illness contact your GP or take them straight to the Accident and Emergency department of your local hospital. For more information on recognising the signs of serious illness see Useful links.) If your pharmacist can't help, contact your GP surgery or out-of-hours GP service.

Most GP surgeries are very supportive towards parents of small children. Many will fit babies into surgeries without an appointment or see them at the beginning of surgery hours. Many GPs will also give advice over the phone.

If you find it difficult to contact your doctor or get to the surgery you can change your GP (see Useful links). You can also call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 for medical advice, 24 hours a day.

Your health visitor, practice nurse, nurse practitioner, GP and pharmacist can all give you advice on how to treat your child's illness. Your GP can treat your child and prescribe medicines. Some health visitors, nurses and pharmacists can also diagnose illness and prescribe medicines for your child.

Dealing with minor accidents

Many GP surgeries, minor injury units, walk-in centres and pharmacies are equipped to deal with minor casualties, such as cuts or items trapped in the nose or ear.

In this situation, ask your GP or NHS Direct (0845 4647) for advice on where to go before you go to Accident and Emergency.

NHS Choices