Signs Of Serious Illness In Children« Back to Articles
Spotting signs of serious illness in children can be difficult for parents. This article covers what health professionals should tell parents to look for and when to call an ambulance.
Serious childhood illnesses can present in many ways, so knowing what symptoms to look out for is essential to ensure the child gets the correct help. Parents should be told to trust their instincts, so if they are worried that there is something seriously wrong with their child, it is better to quickly seek medical help than to wait.
As a medical professional, you should check the following warning signs with a parent that may indicate a serious illness:
- A high temperature that doesn’t come down with paracetamol or ibuprofen
- The child is quiet and listless, even when their temperature is within normal range
Alertness and irritability:
- The child has a high-pitched, continuous cry
- The child is unresponsive
- The child is unusually drowsy or floppy
The child is having difficulty breathing, with the following symptoms;
- A throaty or rasping noise while breathing
- Rapid breathing or panting
- Shallow breaths
Skin colour and appearance:
- The child's skin is pale or blue in colour
- The child has a purple or red skin rash that doesn’t go away when pressed
Other signs to look for:
- The child has a fit, convulsion or seizure for the first time
- The child appears disorientated or confused, or is hard to wake up
- The child is throwing up green vomit
- The child refuses to drink or is not passing urine
Parents should be advised to get medical help as soon as possible if their child displays any of the above serious signs of illness. Parents should be advised to call their local GP practice, NHS 111 or take their child to their nearest accident and emergency centre.
When to call an ambulance
Parents should call 999 for an ambulance if their child:
- Has a fit for the first time, even if they seem to recover
- Has a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
- Has a spotty, purple-red skin rash that doesn’t fade when pressed with a drinking glass
- If they think someone has seriously injured their baby
- Is under eight weeks old, and you are very worried about them
- Stops breathing
- Won’t wake up
Healthcare professionals should reassure parents to trust their instincts. They will know when something isn't right with their child, and they display worrying behaviour.
PDUK provides professional training courses and practical workshops for healthcare providers and medical practitioners such as nurses, clinicians and allied healthcare workers. We highly recommend the following course in minor paediatric illness.
P01 Paediatric minor illness: Online
The RCN Centre has accredited this course for Professional Accreditation. This online course focuses on childhood minor illnesses from infancy to late teens.
The course is aimed at first-line health providers such as advanced nurse practitioners, nurse practitioners, school nurses, practice nurses, health visitors, and allied health professionals.
This course is ideal for healthcare practitioners who are already confident in history-taking and physical examination skills. This course will enable participants to explore a variety of paediatric conditions in an evidence-based context and be able to share their real-life experiences and build on their knowledge and expertise.
Note: Course pre-requisite- competency in history taking and physical examination skills.
Course participants will gain skills in the following:
- Discuss and practice taking safe, developmentally appropriate histories for a variety of paediatric patient presentations.
- Assess and identify various common paediatric minor illnesses.
- Identify and discuss appropriate additional diagnostics required for accurate patient assessment.
- Discuss paediatric patient management, including referral requirements for safe practice.
- Demonstrate your ability to integrate your diagnostic reasoning and patient management skills through case studies and review scenarios.
The course runs from 10:00 am- 4:30 pm, and all equipment, course materials, evaluation and certificate of attendance are included.