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Using your GP

Most practices are very supportive towards parents of small children. Many will fit babies into surgeries without an appointment, or see them at the beginning of surgery hours. Many doctors will give advice over the phone. Others will feel that it is essential to see your child.

Some GPs are less helpful and it’s not always easy to phone or to get to the surgery. Even so, if you’re worried about a particular problem that won’t go away, it’s right to persist.

Your health visitor and/or clinic doctor can give you advice and help you decide whether your child is really unwell or not. But it’s only your family doctor (your GP) who can treat your child and prescribe medicines. If you think your child is ill, it’s best to see your GP.

If you’re unsure whether to go to the surgery or ask for a home visit, phone and talk to the receptionist or to your GP. Explain how your child is and what’s worrying you. Often it doesn’t do a child (or anyone else) any harm to be taken to the surgery, and you’re likely to get attention more quickly this way. But explain if it’s difficult for you to get there. Wrapping a sick child up and going by car is one thing, going on the bus might be impossible.

Symptoms and signs that are always urgent:

  • a fit (convulsion), or if your baby turns blue or very pale (in a dark-skinned baby check the palms of the hands) or seems floppy.
  • a very high temperature (over 39ºC), especially if there’s a rash.
  • difficulty breathing, breathing fast or grunting breathing.
  • unusually drowsy or hard to wake or doesn’t seem to know you.
  • a temperature, but the skin of the hands and feet feels cold and clammy.
  • a purple-red rash anywhere on the body – this could be a sign of meningitis.

Sick babies – always contact your doctor if:

  • you think your baby’s ill, even if you can’t make out what’s wrong;
  • your baby has one or more of the problems listed above.

We are indebted to Health Promotion England for their help in compiling this section.