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Signs your baby is ill

Concerned about your baby’s health? Here is a guide to signs of illness in babies.

You know your baby better than anyone. If you think they’re under the weather it’s best to seek medical advice.

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Although babies cannot tell you what is wrong, and their behaviour changes frequently as they grow, here are some of the signs which could indicate illness. If you have concerns about your baby’s health always trust your instincts and seek medical advice and reassurance.

A guide to signs of illness in babies

  • Signs of illness
  • Serious symptoms of illness
  • Changes in behaviour
  • Seeking medical assistance

It is common for babies to get infections and illnesses which can be quickly treated with a trip to the GP, medicine and some TLC.  

There are a number of signs which the NHS  advises should always be treated as serious.  These are:

  • A high-pitched, weak or continuous cry
  • A lack of responsiveness, reduction in activity or increased floppiness 
  • In babies, a bulging fontanelle (the soft spot on a baby's head) 
  • Neck stiffness (in a child)
  • Not drinking for more than eight hours (taking solid food is not as important) 
  • A temperature of over 38°C for a baby less than three months old, or over 39°C for a baby aged three to six months old
  • A high temperature, but cold feet and hands 
  • A high temperature coupled with quietness and listlessness 
  • Fits, convulsions or seizures 
  • Turning blue, very pale, mottled or ashen 
  • Difficulty breathing, fast breathing, grunting while breathing, or if your child is working hard to breathe, for example, sucking their stomach in under their ribs
  • Your baby or child is unusually drowsy, hard to wake up or doesn’t seem to know you 
  • Your child is unable to stay awake even when you wake them 
  • A spotty, purple-red rash anywhere on the body (this could be a sign of meningitis
  • Repeated vomiting or bile-stained (green) vomiting 

If you spot one of these symptoms always seek immediate medical advice either by calling an ambulance or taking them to A&E.  If you’re unsure which is the most appropriate action, see our guide here.

There are other, more subtle, signs of illness in babies.  Although you are getting to know each other in the weeks after birth, you still know your baby better than anyone so trust your instincts if you suspect illness.

Changes in sleep

A subtle change in sleeping patterns may not necessarily indicate illness as baby’s sleep patterns are changing all the time.  However, if they are suddenly unable to sleep or are showing other behavioural changes this may be the sign of an illness.

Unable to comfort

Mrs Hedgehog’s Magical Song no longer working?  This could be a sign of them being under the weather.  However, babies are a fickle bunch and this could also be a sign that Mrs Hedgehog is now so-five-minutes-ago they are embarrassed for you.  


Extra cuddles are lovely but if they really don’t want you to let them go it might be because they aren’t feeling 100%.


A high temperature (usually considered by medical professionals to be 37.5⁰C or above and best measured with a digital thermometer) is often an indication of illness. 

We have a guide to taking a baby’s temperature here.

Think your baby might be coming down with something? See our guide to baby medicines here.  

A guide to signs of illness in babies

  • Signs of illness
  • Serious symptoms of illness
  • Changes in behaviour
  • Seeking medical assistance
If you have concerns about your baby’s health always seek medical advice

Signs your baby is ill