Immunisations and Illness

Immunisations and Illness

Vaccinations for children 

One of the best ways to protect your child against diseases like measles, rubella, tetanus and meningitis is through immunisations. 

As well as protecting your own child, you're also protecting others by preventing the spread of disease. 

Vaccinations are offered free of charge in the UK – just book your appointments with your GP.  For more information visit the NHS website.

woman holding baby 

Common Childhood Illnesses

Almost all babies, toddlers and children will get the most common childhood illnesses like chickenpox, colds, sore throats and ear infections. Your health visitor, practice nurse, pharmacist or GP can give you advice on how to treat your child's illness. Please visit Colds, coughs and ear infections in children - NHS ( for more information about minor illnesses. 

If your child is ill, the most important thing to do is to listen to them.

If they say they don't need to be in bed, they probably don't. They might feel better on the sofa with a blanket or duvet.

Whether they're in bed or on the sofa, the following will help them feel more comfortable. 

  • Keep the room airy without being draughty. If the room is too warm, they'll probably feel worse.
  • Give your child plenty to drink. For the first day or so don't bother about food unless they want it. After that, start trying to tempt them with bits of food and encouraging them to have nutritious drinks like milk.
  • Try to give your child time for quiet games, stories, company and comfort.
  • Sick children get very tired and need plenty of rest. Encourage your child to doze off when they need to, perhaps with a story read by you or on a mobile device or CD.
  • Never fall asleep with a sick baby on the sofa with you, even if you're both exhausted. This increases the chances of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Looking after a sick child, even for a couple of days, can be exhausting.

Get rest and sleep when you can, and try to get somebody else to take over every now and then to give you a break.

Where to get help for a seriously ill child

If your child has any of signs of serious illness, get medical help as soon as possible:

  • during the day from Monday to Friday – it's best to call your GP surgery
  • evenings and weekends – call NHS 111
  • if your baby is under 6 months old it's hard for a doctor or nurse to assess them over the phone – you can go to an urgent treatment centre or, if you're very worried, take them to A&E

When to visit urgent treatment centres (urgent care services)

Find your nearest A&E

Is my child too ill for school or nursery? 

It can be tricky deciding whether or not to keep your child off school, nursery or playgroup when they're unwell. Children can attend school or nursery if they have a cold or a cough as long as they are well enough in themselves. 

There are government guidelines for schools and nurseries about managing specific infectious diseases at GOV.UK. These say when children should be kept off school and when they shouldn't. 

If you do keep your child at home, it's important to phone the school or nursery on the first day. Let them know that your child won't be in and give them the reasonFurther guidance can be found on the NHS website.

baby lying on bed

person holding baby

Last Updated on Monday, April 8, 2024

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