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Top 5 child health emergencies

Your child’s health is your number one priority, so it makes sense to know about the top five emergencies that could affect them.

In this guide, we cover what you need to look for, how to avoid a medical emergency at home and what action you should take if one occurs.

Remember, if you have serious concerns about your child’s health, seek immediate medical attention. Dial triple zero (000) for an ambulance.

1. Fever

When your child’s temperature hits 38 °C or over, it’s classed as a fever.

It’s very common for your child to experience fever. You can usually manage a fever at home with a few simple items like thermometers to monitor their temperature and cooling patches to keep them comfortable.

However, if your child experiences the following symptoms along with their fever, you should get immediate medical help.

  • Not responding to your voice
  • Having a seizure (a fit) or losing consciousness
  • Having trouble breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Pain in their tummy
  • Stiff neck
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Bulging soft spot on a baby’s head
  • Refusing fluids
  • Not passing urine
  • Fever lasting longer than three days

Some of these symptoms may mean they have a serious illness like meningitis, so they should get checked straight away.

2. Burns and scalds

Children have sensitive skin, so burns and scalds (burns from steam or hot liquids) can affect them badly.

Try to prevent burns and scalds from occurring by following common-sense measures, including:

  • Never leaving your child alone in the kitchen or bathroom
  • Making sure pans and kettles are out of reach
  • Checking the temperature of bathwater with a thermometer. It should be between 37 °C and 38 °C
  • Keeping hot drinks, matches and lighters away from children
  • Keeping your child away from heaters and open fires with a fireguard

If your child suffers a burn or scald:

  • Put the affected area under cool or tepid running water for 20 minutes.
  • Cover the burn with a clean dressing.
  • Get urgent medical attention if the burn is bigger than your child’s hand or affects the face, hands, feet, bottom or genital area.
  • Get help if your child goes into shock. Symptoms include rapid, shallow breathing, dizziness, weakness, clammy skin or sweating.

3. Broken bones

Broken bones or fractures can happen when your child is playing or practising a sport and falls over or suffers a blow to their body.



Symptoms of a fracture include:

  • Pain in the affected area
  • Swelling, bruising or deformity in the affected area
  • Difficulty moving the limb
  • A feeling of weakness in the limb

All fractures need medical attention so your child can get the treatment they need. This can include putting the affected limb into a splint or cast or surgery.

4. Poisoning

Poisoning can happen for a variety of reasons. Your child may swallow pills or batteries thinking they are lollies, or they may drink household cleaners. Or they may be stung or bitten by a snake, spider or insect or be poisoned by eating certain plants or berries.

Prevent poisoning by:

  • Keeping cleaners, chemicals and medicines out of reach of children, ideally in a locked cupboard
  • Keeping products in their original containers. Never decant them into drinks bottles or food containers where they could be mistaken for something good to eat or drink.
  • Supervising your child when playing outside

Symptoms of poisoning may differ depending on the poison. They can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Burns in the mouth
  • Sweating
  • Fits
  • Loss of consciousness

You should seek urgent medical attention if you think your child has been poisoned.

5. Foreign body

A foreign body is something inside your child’s body that isn’t supposed to be there. For example, they may get a splinter in their finger when playing outside. This can be dealt with simply at home.

But sometimes a foreign body can mean a medical emergency. Your child might put a small toy in their mouth, which can cause choking. If this happens, you should:

  • Get someone to dial triple zero (000) straight away.
  • While you are waiting for help, stand behind your child with your arms around their waist.
  • Make a fist and place it under their chest, just above the navel.
  • Hold your fist with the other hand.
  • Press into your child’s abdomen with a quick push upwards. Repeat until the object comes out.

Even if the item comes out, your child will still need medical attention.

This sequence is suitable for use on children aged 1 to 8. It’s worth doing a first aid course for children to practise this procedure and to know how to help younger or older children.

A foreign body may also be swallowed without causing choking. It’s important to get your child immediate help in this case.

Knowing what to look for is key

Now that you’ve read our guide to child health emergencies, you should know what to look for.

Don’t hesitate to seek child emergency care if they are affected by one of the scenarios described above or any other health emergency.

For minor illnesses and injuries, check out our range of health and wellness accessories, including thermometers and cooling products.

You can browse our complete collection in our online shop to find what you need to care for your child at home.



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