Life Pharmacy
Advice for living well

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.


Fever and pain are two common symptoms your child may have if they are unwell.


37 °C is the normal body temperature when measured by mouth, under the arm, by ear or on the forehead. Fever is a common symptom in childhood illness. It is one of the ways the body fights infections. Your child has a fever when their forehead is very hot to touch, or their body temperature is more than 37 °C.

Talk to your LIFE Pharmacist about the different types of thermometers available to measure your child’s body temperature and how to use them.

Fever is one of the ways the body fights infection, but it is dangerous if it gets too high.

To prevent fever from getting worse:

  • 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 of how much or how often to give it.


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.


  • 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.

Immunisation can prevent this illness

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


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