I don’t feel well

Every toddler feels under the weather occasionally, although it’s usually not serious. Here’s how to keep them healthy – and get them through those poorly spells.

Toddlers tend to get more minor illnesses (such as coughs and colds) than older children and adults do because their immune systems are still developing. So the occasional bout of illness is to be expected.

It can also help them to build up immunity. But too many can wear them (and you) down. Healthy nutritious food, regular activity, fresh air and a few simple hygiene measures can help to keep them healthy and will prevent many common illnesses.


  • cries constantly and can’t be comforted
  • seems drowsy and won’t wake up
  • has a fever that lasts for more than three days
  • doesn’t seem to be getting better after an operation or after a course of treatment for an illness.

NHS24: Dial '111' (freephone)

Is my child sick?

You’re the best judge of whether your tot is unwell, so if you think they’re ill, even if you can’t quite put your finger on what’s wrong, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice.

A classic sign of illness is a fever. Your child may have one if they’re flushed or feel hot and sweaty, or if their temperature is over 38°C or 100.4°F measured with a thermometer.

You can use a digital, non-breakable one.

Other clues that your child is under the weather include a runny nose, coughs and sneezes, a rash, sleeping more, lack of appetite, increased whining, clinginess and listlessness. If your tot’s temperature doesn’t stop them from playing and eating normally, there may not be anything to get too worried about.

Minor Ailment Service

Pregnant women and children under 16 years old are eligible for the Minor Ailment Service (MAS) which is provided by NHS community pharmacies across Scotland.

You can register with and use your community pharmacy as the first port of call for the free consultation and treatment of common self-limiting illnesses. The pharmacist can advise, treat or refer you to another healthcare professional according to your needs.

Find out more at www.gov.scot.

Caring for an ill child

Kids are usually tired and grouchy when they are ill, so be patient and expect them to be more demanding.

They may want to sleep more, so let them stay in bed if they ask. They’ll probably want you around, so be prepared to spend time reading and watching TV together. Breastfed children may wish to breastfeed more often at this time.

Keep things familiar and low-key – now is not the time to change routines. If they’re hungry, give them something light to eat and give them plenty to drink (drinking is more important than eating when they’re ill). Once they’re feeling better, they can go outside if the weather is fine but keep them indoors if it’s cold, damp or foggy.

If your tot has a temperature

  • Encourage them to rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • They don’t have to stay in bed unless they want to. It’s OK for them to be with you as long as they can rest.
  • Avoid exciting games and toys. Do quiet things with them until they feel better.
  • Keep the room cool – open a window if it’s hot.
  • Dress them in just a nappy, or pants if they’re toilet trained.
  • If they’re staying in bed, take the duvet or blanket off if they start sweating.
  • Give sugar-free paracetamol syrup or ibuprofen for children. Always stick to the dose that’s recommended. Remember, never give aspirin to a child under 16 or ibuprofen to a child who has asthma.


Washing hands properly will help protect you and your toddler from bugs and other illnesses

  • Wash hands before eating, after going to the toilet or after playing with pets.
  • Let them watch you washing your hands. Tots like to copy what you do.
  • Show them how to wash their hands and in between their fingers, using soap and water.
  • Help them by lifting them up to the basin or use a handy step-up stool.
  • Make it fun by singing a rhyme or song.

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Last updated: 24 April 2019