Looking after a sick child (over 5s)


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Almost all children will also get the most common childhood illnesses like chicken pox,  colds, sore throats and ear infections. While these are not very nice at the time, they are easy to treat when required and then easily cared for at home.

It can be tricky deciding whether or not to keep your child off school when they're unwell. You can find guidance to help you decide and information on how to care for your child on the NHS webpage, is my child too ill for school?  

Trust your instincts

It can be difficult to tell when a child seriously ill, particularly when they are very young. But the main thing is to trust your instincts and seek medical advice.

You know better than anyone else what your child is usually like, so you'll know when something is seriously wrong.

Make yourself familiar with the signs and symptoms of meningitis and sepsis.

If you think your child may have meningitis or sepsis:

  • Call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E immediately if you think you or someone you look after could have meningitis or sepsis.

  • Trust your instincts and do not wait for all the symptoms to appear or until a rash develops. Someone with meningitis or sepsis can get a lot worse very quickly.

  • Call NHS 111 for advice if you're not sure if it's anything serious or you think you may have been exposed to someone with meningitis.

  • If you've had medical advice and are still worried or any symptoms get worse, get medical help again.

For more information on the health of your child go to School Health Services Home Page | CNWL School Health Service

Infectious diseases to be particularly aware of

There are some infectious diseases that parents and carers need to know the signs and symptoms of so they take the right action. This is because some of these infections can make children particularly poorly and in some instances can cause long term damage or even death.

Parents are recommended to read the links below so they can recognise signs and symptoms and know what action to take.


Measles is an infection that spreads very easily and can cause serious problems particularly in the under 5s. Having the MMR vaccine is the best way to prevent it.


Meningitis is an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord (meninges). Meningitis can be very serious if not treated quickly.  Meningitis can be caused by a number of different infections, so several vaccinations offer some protection against it.

Strep A including Invasive Group A Strep (iGAS)

Strep A is a common type of bacteria. Most strep A infections are mild and easily treated, but some are more serious.

Scarlet fever

Scarlet Fever is a contagious infection that mostly affects young children. It's easily treated with antibiotics.


Sepsis is life threatening. It can be hard to spot.

Page last reviewed: 17/04/2024

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