Common Baby Illnesses

Babies and young children are susceptible to picking up bugs. Some exposure to germs is important as your child is building their immune system. Below are the seven most common baby and childhood illnesses, the symptoms and how you can help.

Hand, Foot And Mouth

Hand, foot and mouth is an infectious virus, it mainly affects children under 5. It can cause sores in the mouth, blisters or spots on the palms of the hand, soles of the feet and in the nappy area. Most of the time it last 7-10 days, it can make the mouth very sore so your baby may go off their food during this time. Your baby may have a lack of energy and may have a fever. No need to go see your GP unless you are worried or your baby is under 3 months old and has a fever over 38C. Make sure you wash your hands regularly and very well.

Keeping your baby hydrated is important, you might find they go off their milk or food so offering them milk through a syringe, or if they are on solids offering easy to eat soft foods that have high water content, including watermelon, soups, yogurt etc. 

Coughs And Colds

Symptoms include a runny or blocked nose, a cough, red eyes, sneezing, loss of appetite, mild fever and restlessness.

Offer your baby plenty of breastmilk or formula. Babies over 4 months can be offered water. If you suspect your baby is dehydrated (not having many wet nappies, has a sunken eyes or fontanelle you should see your GP. Symptoms should last a few days to a week.

Things you can do:
Raise the head end of the cot by a couple of inches using large books or something similar.
Saline drops that you can buy in most pharmacies help clear the congestions in little ones sinuses. 

Ear Infections

Ear infections are very common in babies and young children.

Symptoms include pain inside the ear, a high temperature above 38Cº, rubbing/pulling their ears, being off their food, irritable or restless, discharge from the ear and not reacting to certain sounds.

Most ear infections clear up on their own within 3 days.

Things you can do
Offer liquid paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Place a warm or cold flannel against the infected ear.
Remove any discharge from the outside of the ear using cotton wool.

See your GP if
Your child’s temperature is very high or they are hot and shivery
If there is no improvement after 3 days
If there is any swelling around the ear or fluid coming from the ear
Your child is being sick, has a sore throat or is dizzy.
Or if you are worried about your child

Do not
Put anything inside the ear like cotton buds or your finger
Let water or soap get into the ear
Use decongestants.

Diarrhoea And Vomiting

Carry on breast or bottle feeding your baby. It is important that they don’t become dehydrated. If your baby is being sick, try smaller feeds more often instead of one large feed. If you are formula feeding or weaning you can give small sips of water (cool boiled water if they are younger than 6 months) between feeds. Call 111 or see your GP if you’re worried about your baby or if they stop wanting to drink their milk or have very few wet nappies. Seek medical advice before giving your child rehydration sachets.


Caused by a virus that might cause a cold in you or I – the commonest is called RSV, a Respiratory syncytial virus.  In babies under a year of age, it causes swelling and inflammation to their tiny airways and lots of mucous.  As a result, they can find breathing and feeding really challenging.  As a parent or nanny, you will probably hear a wet sounding cough (they often sound like they’ve been a life long smoker when they cough), and they may struggle to feed.  They may have a raised temperature (fever) up to 38.5°C – bronchiolitis doesn’t tend to cause very high temperatures so if your baby is very hot, please get them checked out.From experience, we know that bronchiolitis tends to get worse over the first 3-4 days of the illness, reaching their worst on day 3-4 and then slowly getting better over the next week.  Whilst their breathing difficulties ease, they may continue to cough for up to 6 weeks after an episode of bronchiolitis.  Despite trying multiple treatments over the years, we now know that there is nothing that will make bronchiolitis go away any faster – babies fight the infection on their own but in the meantime, we need to ensure they are coping well.


Chickenpox starts with small red spots anywhere on the body. The spots will then become more like small blisters. Chickenpox can cover the whole body or just stay in one small area. The spots will pop and then start to scab over. Unfortunately you are infectious until the last spot has scabbed over. Some other symptoms can occur before or during the spots including, high temperature, loss of appetite and aches and pains. The spots can be very itchy, applying cooling creams such as calamine lotion and adding bicarbonate of soda to a warm bath can help ease this a little bit but make sure your baby/child’s nails are kept short to help minimise any skin breakage if they do itch.

Do not give ibuprofen such as Nurofen for children as this can cause skin infections.

Paracetamol such as Calpol are fine to give your child if they are feeling unwell with chickenpox.

Try and keep fluids up, offer extra milk feeds if your baby is under 6 months, natural fruit ice lollies can be good for keeping older children hydrated as well as high water content food such as cucumber and watermelon.

Many airlines will not let you fly if you are your child has chickenpox so make sure you check with them if you are due to fly anywhere.

Oral Thrush

Oral thrush is common in babies and usually shows as a white coating on the tongue (that looks a little like cottage cheese). It can’t be wiped off easily, if it can be wiped off easily it is most likely just a build up of milk.

Your baby might not want their usual feeds and they can also get a sore bottom and nappy rash.

If your baby is under 4 months see your GP, if not you can get a mouth gel from your pharmacist that can help clear it up.

If you are breastfeeding, your baby might pass the thrush infection from their mouth to your nipples. This can be very sore, your nipples might become cracked and sore and might become red and shiny. See your doctor if you believe you have a thrush infection on your nipples, they will probably prescribe a cream to apply to help clear up the infection, you will still be able to breastfeed when being treated for thrush.

Information taken from the NHS website. I am not a health professional. If you are worried about your child and their health at anytime please speak to a medical professional.

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