How to deal with common childhood illnesses this winter

Parents and carers across Pennine Lancashire are being reminded to make sure they know how to deal with common childhood illnesses this winter.

Children often seem to be the worst affected by common winter illnesses like coughs, colds, tummy bugs and the flu but this is normal; their immune system is not as developed as an adult’s. We become immune to infections by either catching them or through vaccines, so babies and young children therefore get more colds as they develop their immunity.

Babies and young people can normally catch several colds each year. Catching them can be a miserable time for them as well as for parents. An adult may get two to four colds a year, but children can get eight to 12 and most of these can be treated at home with over the counter medication and rest.

It can be difficult to know the best way to care for children when they become ill but GP Dr Aliya Bhat, clinical lead for children and young people at NHS Blackburn with Darwen and NHS East Lancashire Commissioning Groups (CCGs), said:

“All parents worry when their child is poorly, often what parents need is some reassurance their child isn’t developing serious complications from a virus, or has an infection that might need more treatment.

“Most of the time childhood illness can be managed at home with advice from your pharmacist and lots of rest. GPs, pharmacists, and NHS 111 are ready to provide that support.”

Every parent or carer wants to know what to do when a child is ill. Your local pharmacist is an excellent first point of call. They can advise on the appropriate over the counter medicines that are suitable for your child’s age. If you continue to have concerns and want to talk to someone, call NHS 111 to speak to one of their trained advisers, or go online at

NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Depending on the situation they will advise which local service can help you. This could mean getting you a consultation with an out of hours GP or nurse, or if you need to go to an emergency department such as A&E they can get you a timed appointment, meaning you spend less time there.  If your child is floppy and unresponsive, then you should go immediately to A&E or call 999.

There is also an extensive and informative interactive guide to common childhood illnesses on the CCG website at This handbook can be used to learn how to care for a child at home, when to call a doctor and when to contact emergency services alongside other useful local information and contacts.

Dr Bhat added:

“I’d also strongly encourage any parent to consider vaccinating their child against flu. All children aged from two up to year 11 in secondary school are eligible. Flu can be extremely dangerous for young children; in fact those under five are the most likely to be admitted to hospital with flu complications.

“Colds and bugs can be managed with pain relief, oral rehydration solution and cough mixture. It’s worth having a thermometer at home to check your child’s temperature.

“If your child has an upset tummy or flu it’s best to keep them away from the elderly and other children who can be vulnerable to infection. Children should learn good hygiene early and be encouraged to wash their hands regularly, particularly after playing, going to the toilet and before eating.”


For more advice on staying well this winter