If your child is ill over Christmas will you know where to go?

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East Staffordshire CCG is urging those looking after children over Christmas to make sure they know about basic common illnesses so they know what to do if a child is unwell.

Winter illnesses are circulating and many GP surgeries will be closed over the festive period so parents and carers should be ready deal with common childhood illnesses, such as coughs and colds.

Make sure that your medicine cupboard is well stocked with essentials such as pain relief, cough medicine and oral rehydration sachets, and make sure everything is in date.

The most common illness for a child at this time of year is a cold. Symptoms include sneezing, a stuffy or runny nose, coughing, sore throat and red, watery eyes. Sometimes there are other symptoms such as chills, aches, a mild fever and swollen lymph glands. Your local pharmacy can advise on which over-the-counter remedies will help ease symptoms.

Flu is another illness which is around at this time of year. Many people think that flu is like a bad cold, but symptoms include a sudden fever, chills and shakes, extreme fatigue, aching muscles, a cough, nausea and vomiting. If your GP practice is closed, call NHS 111 for advice.

Most children between the ages of two and four will have already had a flu vaccination. If your child is outside this age group but has a long-term medical condition, they may be eligible for a free flu jab. Check with your GP or pharmacist.

Asthma may be triggered by cold weather so if your child is asthmatic, it is best to keep them indoors on very cold and windy days, be extra vigilant about them taking their regular medications and keep rescue inhalers handy and in a warm place. If you do go out, make sure your child is wearing a scarf over their nose and mouth.

Many illnesses can be avoided by good hygiene - make sure your child washes their hands regularly, particularly after going to the toilet and before eating, to help reduce the spread of germs. It also lowers the risk of vomiting and diarrhoea known as norovirus.

Dr Charles Pidsley, local GP and Chair of East Staffordshire CCG said: “Christmas is an exciting and magical time for children, and the last thing anybody wants is for their child to be poorly. Lower their risk of becoming ill by ensuring good hand hygiene and getting them the flu jab where eligible.

“If they do become ill over the festive period, there is plenty of advice available from pharmacists, GPs and NHS 111, and many over-the-counter medicines can help with minor illnesses. We are advising anyone who will be looking after children this Christmas to have a well-stocked medicine cabinet with things like pain relief, cough medicine and a thermometer handy. Always read the label on your medicines.

“If your child needs more urgent medical attention, call NHS 111 for appointments with the out-of-hours GP service. The 111 team will also check whether there are any other services available locally that could be more appropriate for you before booking you in, or if it’s an emergency, then go to accident and emergency or dial 999.”

For more advice on staying well this winter visit www.nhs.uk/staywell