Child Health

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Child Health

A sick child will usually act unwell, feel sleepy and be less active. If your child is unwell, watch them carefully. Their symptoms can worsen quickly. Write down what symptoms your child has and when they were first identified so you can tell your LIFE pharmacist or doctor.
Pain and fever are common symptoms in children. They are the body’s signals that something is wrong - pain usually indicates damage, e.g. to bone or tissues, and fever is a sign that the body is ‘fighting’ a bacterial or viral infection. The information on this card will assist you in caring for your child and knowing when to refer to the doctor. In addition, ask your Life pharmacist for advice.
Children can experience as much pain as adults and, like adults, they respond to pain in different ways. Assessing children’s pain can be difficult because of the many factors that influence how they show pain and respond to it - factors such as age, their levels of understanding, family/cultural background; etc Babies and very young children in pain will continue to cry after you have tried everything else such as food, nappy changes and cuddles. Older children can identify from where the pain is coming (head, throat, ears, stomach), and in their own words can describe what they feel. Ask your child to explain the pain, and monitor it to determine if it is improving or getting worse. Things to look for ­suggesting pain that needs attention - are children who are
  • quiet and withdrawn,
  • tugging on their ears,
  • crying, agitated, anxious, angry or frightened.
  • Avoiding their usual activities because that may make the pain worse.
The body’s normal temperature, when measured by thermometer, is around 37°C. Your child has a fever if his forehead, or the back of the neck, is very hot to touch, and a thermometer confirms his body temperature is higher than 37°C. Talk to your Life pharmacist about the different types of thermometers available to measure body temperature, and how to use them.
The fever could be a response to the common cold. This is confirmed if other symptoms, such as sore throat, runny or blocked nose, and cough, occur at the same time (see the Coughs & Colds fact card). For mild fever, and in most common cold cases, the fever is self-limiting and will clear-up without the need for medicines. You can help relieve the fever, and may prevent it from getting worse by:
  • Ensure your child is rested and cool.
  • Take off some clothes and blankets (keep covered with a sheet). Cool the room if it is too warm.
  • Continuously wipe the head and body with a wet, lukewarm (not cold) cloth.
  • Give plenty of fluids to drink (a little but often) to prevent dehydration.
  • Give some paracetamol. Follow dosage instructions carefully and give your child the correct amount. Ask your Life pharmacist if you are unsure about doage and frequency.



Pain is the body’s way of letting your child know something is wrong. It can be caused by teething, injury or illness. A child in pain will still cry after you have tried everything else such as nappy change, food and cuddles. Paracetamol is the recommended medicine for pain relief in children. Follow dosage instructions carefully and give your child the correct amount.
Medicines in liquid form, especially prepared for use in children, help relieve pain and reduce fever. The decision to treat your child without seeking the doctor’s advice first should be based on how unsettled and unwell your child seems, what other symptoms are present, and what the body temperature is.
Paracetamol liquid is the most widely-used medicine for relieving children’s pain and fever, especially pain and fever associated with headache, earache, immunisation,
Toothache and cold and flu symptoms. Ibuprofen liquid also is available. Always read and follow carefully the dose instructions on the medicine’s label, and provide the correct amount at the correct time.
When using paracetamol to reduce your child’s pain and fever, don’t give her non-prescription cough and cold medicines as well. Many of these also contain paracetamol and you would be doubling-up on the paracetamol dose - which is harmful. Discuss this with your Life pharmacist.
Special medicine measures (spoons or syringes) are available from your Life pharmacy so you can measure your child’s dose accurately. Don’t use household teaspoons; they vary in sizes and you won’t get the correct liquid dose required. Special droppers are available for giving medicines to babies and young children - look out for infant-specific products as these usually contain free measuring dispensers.
Safe Storage
When you have medicines in the home with children, there is the potential for poisoning. Here are two very important steps to keep your children safe and stop them getting hold of the medicines:
store out of reach and sight of children (e.g. in a locked kitchen cupboard or on a top shelf) all medicines not being used, and
use child-resistant closures (safety caps) on all medicines not already packaged in special packaging.
If these caps are not provided with your child’s medicines, or medicines used by other people in your household, ask your pharmacist to put them on. Sometimes you will need to pay a small cost per cap. People can have difficulty using the caps and so may not put them on properly - which means the caps will not provide child-resistance. Ask your Life pharmacist to show you the correct use.



  • Pain relievers should not be used regularly or continuously.
  • Always give the correct dose at the correct interval.
  • They can sometimes cover up severe illnesses such as earache or meningitis, especially in babies and younger children. See a doctor quickly if you are worried.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 12 years of age unless your doctor says you can.
  • Check with your Life pharmacist before giving your child any new medicine.


Common childhood illnesses

Young children may develop one of the following illnesses. See your doctor if you suspect any illness.


Signs and Symptoms Time from first contact until first sign of illness How long is your child infections What you can do to help your child


  • Fever
  • Small red pimples (first on chest and back, then on face, arms and legs) which turn to yellow blisters, then break.
10 - 21 days From 2 days before the rash until the rash dries up, about 7 days later.
  • Encourage bed rest
  • Use cotton mittens for infants and cut and clean finger nails to stop scratching (leaves pockmarks).
  • Use calamine lotion in the bath for itching
  • Give antihistamines at night to relieve itching.


  • Runny nose
  • Sore eyes
  • Dry cough
  • Fever
  • Rash - starts on neck, forehead and cheeks and moves to body
10 - 12 days
  • From first day if illness to 4 days after start of rash.
  • Other children who have not had measles and have not been immunised should be immunised within 24 hours.
  • Encourage bed rest and extra sleep for about 7 days.
  • Give plenty to drink.
Meningitis (Bacterial) *


  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Red-purple spots, bruises or blotchy skin
  • Vomiting
  • Neck stiffness
  • Babies may have a high pitched cry and/or be difficult to wake.
2 - 10 days
  • People who have been in contact with your child in the last ten days will also need antibiotic treatment.
  • Symptoms can worsen very rapidly. Don’t delay - SEE YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY.


  • Pain in jaw
  • Swelling below ear in neck glands
  • Fever
About 12-25 days. From one week before to 9 days after symptoms appear.
  • Encourage bed rest.
  • Give plenty to drink.
  • Give soft food - easy to swallow.


  • Rash (starts on the face then moves onto the body)
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands (sometimes)
About 14 - 21 days
  • From 7 days before rash until 4 days after rash started.
  • Keep child away from pregnant women. If this happens the pregnant woman should see her doctor immediately.
  • Encourage bed rest.
Whooping cough*


  • Nasal congestion
  • Persistent cough - later develops “whoop”
  • Vomiting when coughing (sometimes).
About 7 - 10 days
  • From 7 days after exposure to illness to 3 weeks after onset of symptoms.
  • Keep the child away from babies and toddlers. Other children who have not been immunised should stay at home for 2 weeks.
  • Encourage bed rest
  • Give plenty to drink.


Free immunisation

Immunisation (except for chickenpox) is free in Ireland. It builds up your child’s defences to the disease before your child actually becomes sick. All children should be immunised against preventable childhood illnesses.
See a doctor if you’re child:
  • Still has pain or high fever (39°C or more) after 24 hours.
  • Has a bout of vomiting for longer than 24 hours
  • Has more than two runny smelly bowel motions in a day.
  • Vomits and has diarrhoea together.
  • Breathes more quickly than normal or grunts.
  • Has a continuous cough or wheeze.
  • Has an unusual cry for longer than one hour.
  • Cries, grizzles and rubs at their ear, or an ear is runny.
  • Is difficult to wake up
  • Has a fit or convulsion
  • Refuses two normal feeds in 24 hours.
  • Feels too hot or too cold.
  • Is unusually floppy or pale (even without other signs).
  • Develops a rash or stiff neck