Parents Choose Well

All children experience common illnesses like coughs, colds and chickenpox; they are all part of growing up.

Antibiotics are not needed for every illness and using them unnecessarily means they are less likely to work when we need them and could expose your child to side effects.

Instead, treating your child’s illness yourself or with advice and medicines from your local pharmacy, can often be the easiest and quickest way to help your child get better.

This starts with a well-stocked medicine cabinet, which should be kept securely out of your child’s reach. Be prepared with a digital thermometer, children’s liquid painkillers, decongestant or vapour-rub, oral rehydration sachets, antiseptic cream, calamine lotion, teething gel and plasters.

You can also get medical advice from your GP, health visitor, midwife, school nurse or by calling NHS 111 for free, 24 hours a day. In most cases you can get the help and advice you need from these professionals rather than going to A&E.

We have developed a guide to childhood illnesses to help parents and carers to know what to do, what to look for and where to go. Click on the image below to download our childhood illness guide:

Healthcare professionals came together to provide a guide to three common childhood health ailments that parents can use to self-treat, visit their GP, or call NHS111 and know what to do in an emergency. The three illnesses are:

  • Diarrhoea and Vomiting;
  • Bronchiolitis (not just a cold, but an infection of the lower airways)
  • Head Injury


Bronchiolitis is a common respiratory tract infection that affects babies and young children under a year old. The early symptoms are similar to those of a common cold and include a runny nose and cough.
As it develops, the symptoms of bronchiolitis can include a persistent cough, noisy breathing and difficulty feeding.

Symptoms usually improve after three days and in most cases, the illness isn’t serious. However, contact your GP or health visitor if your child is only able to feed half the normal amount or is struggling to breathe, or if you are generally worried about them.

More information:

Download bronchiolitis advice sheet for parents


Sickness and diarrhoea bugs are caught easily and are often passed on in places where there are lots of children.

Feeling sick and suddenly being sick are normally the first signs. Diarrhoea can follow afterward. If your child is not vomiting frequently, is reasonably comfortable in between and you are able to give them frequent small amounts of water, they are less likely to become dehydrated and probably don't need to see a doctor. Speak to your GP if they are unwell for longer than 24 hours or sooner if they are newborn or if you notice signs of dehydration.

If you're breastfeeding, keep on doing so even more frequently. Offer older children plenty of water, or an ice-lolly for them to suck. If they want to eat, give them plain foods like pasta or boiled rice (nothing too rich or salty).

Keep them away from others, especially children, who may pick up an infection. Be extra careful with everyone’s handwashing.

More information:

Download gastroenteritis advice sheet for parents

Head injury

Children have many bangs to the head and it can be difficult to tell whether they are serious or not. Most head injuries are not serious and simply result in a bump or bruise but occasionally head injuries can result in damage to the brain.

One of the signs of a severe head injury is being unusually sleepy; this does not mean you cannot let your child sleep. You need to get medical attention if:
• They are vomiting persistently (more than three times).
• They are complaining it hurts.
• They are less responsive to you.
• Pain is not relieved by paracetamol or ibuprofen.
If they are tired from what’s happened, or from crying, then it is fine to let them sleep. If you are worried in any way about their drowsiness, then you should wake your child an hour after they go to sleep.

More information:

Download head injury advice sheet for parents