Common Ailments in Babies and Young Children

Mother & Baby
  • Always use a 5ml spoon or dosage syringe provided with the medication – household spoons come in many sizes.

  • Follow the dosage instructions very carefully. Never give the medicine more frequently than recommended by your pharmacist or doctor.

  • Give liquid medicines slowly to avoid choking.
  • Never give a child a medicine without first consulting a pharmacist or doctor.
  • Keep medicines out of the reach of children and out of sight if possible.
  • Don’t give aspirin to children under 16, unless it is specifically prescribed by a doctor.
  • Paracetamol – Make sure you have the right strength for your child. Check the correct dose for your child’s age, not size. Overdosing is dangerous, so ask your pharmacist for advice, and read the label carefully.
  • Ibuprofen – Ibuprofen can be given for pain and fever in children of three months and over who weigh more than 5kg (11lbs). Check the correct dose for your child’s age.


Most colds need no treatment. If your baby’s blocked nose is causing feeding difficulties, ask your pharmacist for saline drops or spray to clear their nostrils. Children over 3 months can be given paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve pain and lower temperature. Vapour rubs can be applied to children’s clothing to provide relief from a blocked nose from age 3 months upwards. Give your child regular drinks as poor feeding and fever can lead to dehydration.

Fever & Pain

Fever is usually a sign of bacterial or viral infection or a response to vaccination. Common childhood pains include sore throats, teething pains and pains from bumps and falls. Paracetamol and Ibuprofen syrups are effective in lowering temperature and providing pain relief. Give your child plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Ask your pharmacist for a suitable thermometer and advice on how to monitor your child’s temperature.


Croup is a viral infection with a harsh barking cough caused by inflammation of the vocal cords. Stay close to your child and provide them with reassurance as they may find croup distressing. Warm drinks may help to loosen mucus.


First teeth can appear any time between birth and 14 months of age. Signs your baby is teething include irritability, dribbling and drooling, red gums and cheeks and wanting to chew everything. Pain relief can be given as paracetamol liquid and pain relieving gels. Petroleum jelly can protect the skin from dribble rash. Give your baby a cool teething ring or massage your baby’s gums with a clean finger for relief.

Nappy Rash

Baby’s tender skin can be irritated by moisture, chafing and ammonia, all found in nappies. Follow the A,B,C,D method:

A-Airing. Keep baby’s skin dry and allow him/her to go without his/her nappy when possible.

B-Barrier. Apply a protective cream at each change.

C-Cleansing. Change nappies as often as possible and as soon as they are wet or soiled. Avoid wipes and products containing alcohol and pat dry.

D-Disposable. Disposable nappies are less likely to cause nappy rash.


Colic affects about 20% of babies and appears in the first few weeks and disappears at about 3-4 months. If your baby is otherwise healthy and cries for more than three hours a day on three days a week, they may have colic. Other symptoms to watch for include passing wind and excessive hunger. Rock your baby gently, pat their back softly. Take your baby for a walk or try a warm bath to help them relax. Change the size of your bottle teats or try a new bottle. Ask your pharmacist about changing formula or if you are breastfeeding, avoid foods that can increase baby’s wind such as beans, onions, garlic, spices, cabbage and peas. Colic drops can help your baby relieve trapped wind. Your pharmacist may also recommend drops to help breakdown the lactose in your baby’s milk.


Diarrhoea can be dangerous in young children and babies due to the risk of dehydration, which can happen very quickly. Signs of dehydration include dry mouth and tongue, skin that remains up when pinched (loss of fluid in skin), sunken fontanelle (soft spot on top of baby’s head), decreased urine production (dry nappies) and thirst. Ask your pharmacist for oral rehydration sachets and follow the instructions for their preparation carefully. Allow your child to eat bland, easily digested foods and limit dairy products. Babies under 12 months should always be seen by a doctor to check for dehydration.


Symptoms include infrequent bowel movements, hard stools which are difficult to pass and tummy pain. Your pharmacist may recommend a gentle laxative. Once a baby is eating solids (from 6 months), ensure the diet has plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, fluid intake is adequate and your child is getting lots of exercise, as this will treat and often prevent constipation.

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