When should I see a doctor about my baby's cold or cough?

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Toddler cold temperature mother child ill

  • Babies can't tell you what's wrong and usually different illnesses, from colds to meningitis, have similar symptoms, such as going off feeds. A little one's condition also tends to change rapidly: he gets sick quickly, and has fewer reserves than adults to cope with illness.
  • A high temperature (over 38°C) should be checked out by a doctor, especially if it's persistent and if you can't lower it with medicine or tepid baths. The higher a baby's temperature, the sooner you should seek help: a little one with a temperature of 40°C should be seen that day.
  • If your child stops eating, is drinking less and becomes lethargic or uninterested in what's going on, take him to a doctor. If he develops a rash, gets worse after the first four or five days or isn't improving after a week, it's time to head to your GP.

How to tell if a cough or cold is serious:

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According to Dr Lowri Kew, working out the cause of a cough can be hard even after examination by a doctor.
'If your child is unwell or you're worried, seek medical help,' she advises.
  • Croup is usually seen in children under 2, and starts with a temperature and hoarse voice. The characteristic barking cough is worse at night.
  • Bronchiolitis tends to affect babies under 6 months (although can be up to 1 year). It starts like a cold, which progresses to an irritable cough, an increased rate of breathing and difficulty feeding over 2-3 days.
  • Chest infections affect children of any age. Typical symptoms include a higher temperature (up to 38º C), going off food, an increased rate of breathing and a cough.
  • Older children who complain of a headache may have sinusitis. They may have a temperature and a cough at night, as mucus drains down the throat.
  • Asthma is more common if there's family history of it. It doesn't cause a high temperature unless there's also a chest infection. Symptoms include a cough at night or wheezing with exercise, infection or at other times. In an acute attack, a child may breathe faster, cough, wheeze or draw in the skin between his ribs as he breathes.
  • Whooping cough can start with a runny nose, progressing to a dry cough that occurs in bursts. After a bout of a hacking cough, a little one will breathe in, and in older children this may sound like a whooping noise. The child may vomit and is likely to be exhausted. The cough may last for several months and can occur even in vaccinated children.

    Back to coughs and colds in babies.

    More help and advice

    - Common kids' health conditions
- Tips and advice on bringing up your baby

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Jolene goodtoknow Editor

Hi Kel, sorry to hear your boy isn't well. If you're still worried you should go back to the doctor and ask for a second opinion. You are perfectly entitled to do so. You could also check his symptoms on NHS Direct: or ring them for advice. I hope he gets better soon


my little boy is 9 months old has been surrering with a cold and just recently he has got a really bad cough. he's choking and gagging untill he is sick. i took him to the doctors on monday and they were no help. said his chest is clear, but i am extremely worried about him as its getting worse. please could you give me some advice and do you think i should take him back but see a different doctor? x

Gemma 5 months

my little girl is 5 months old and has just developed a cough it i think it is quite bad for a child of 5 months i have been to the doctor and she said her chest is clear but i am just really worried


If you're worried about your child, then you should always go to your doctor. Get an appointment quickly and take them down. Doctors expect parents to bring their children along if they're concerned and it's never a wasted trip. Good luck!

nusarat karim

My child is nearly one year old and is not getting over her cough and cold. I can not buy any medicine from the counter,I am very concerned about her because she is findig it difficult to sleep. Could you please give me some hints to help me with this situation because i'v tried everything with her.

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