Childhood Illnesses – Knowing the Symptoms and When to See a Doctor

It’s easy to forget that children are not little adults. Children have not yet developed their body’s natural defences and therefore are far more prone to infections from bacteria and viruses than adults. As a result, children often get sick. Most of the time there is no need to worry, however a child that is unwell must be watched carefully as they can get worse very quickly.

As a parent, it is important to be diligent and understand the warning signs because unlike adult’s, children don’t understand they are poorly. Our Haven pharmacists have put together some useful information about how to recognise when your child is sick and when to see a doctor. Remember, Haven pharmacies are looking after families across Ireland on a daily basis. At Haven, we pride ourselves on the trust and care we invest in the people in our local communities and are here to listen and assist if you ever have any concerns about your family members.

What are the Symptoms of a Sick Child?

Healthy children are usually active and alert whilst a sick child will be more withdrawn than normal. They can be cranky, sleepy, and more in demand of your attention and affection than normal. They often lose their appetite.

General Symptoms

  • General symptoms of a sick child are fever, pain, vomiting and diarrhoea, cough, headache and rash. For specific symptoms of common illness in children have a look at our easy reference table below.

Raised Temperature

  • When a child is running a fever, they will have a raised temperature (above 37°C). This is an indication your child is fighting an infection, either viral or bacterial. Monitor any changes by taking a regular temperature reading with the thermometer.


  • Children’s pain can be from sore ears, teething, headache or injury. Sore throats, runny noses, coughs and headache may also cause distress so it can be helpful to talk to your local Haven Pharmacist about your child’s symptoms.

Vomiting and Diarrhoea

  • Vomiting and diarrhoea are more serious for a child than an adult because they are at higher risk of dehydration due to losing fluids from their bodies. A Haven Pharmacist can help you treat and manage these symptoms or advise referral if necessary.

When Should You See a Doctor About Your Sick Child?

  • If your child still has pain or a fever (39°C or more) after 24 hours
  • Regular vomiting for over 24 hours
  • Vomiting and diarrhoea together
  • More than two very loose, smelly bowel motions in a day
  • Refuses two or more regular daily meals/feeds
  • Rubbing or tugging ear, crying or grizzling, or has runny discharge coming from the ear
  • Ongoing cough or wheeze, breathing more quickly than normal or grunting
  • Difficulty waking the child
  • Seizure or fit
  • Unusually floppy or pale
  • Develops a rash or stiff neck

Common Illnesses in Children That Require a Doctor