Baby & Child Sickness

Ambulance 111
National Poisons Centre 0800 764-766
Healthline 0800 611-116

Danger signs

Get help quickly from a doctor or phone 111 if your baby or child shows any of the danger signs listed below.


• You cannot wake them or they respond less than usual to what is going on around them.
• They have glazed eyes and are not focusing on anything.
• They seem more floppy, drowsy or less alert than usual.
• They have a convulsion or fit.
• They have an unusual cry (high pitched, weak, or continuous) for one hour or more.
• They have severe tummy pain.
• They have a bulge or lump in their groin (where the thigh joins the body)that gets bigger when they cry.

Skin colour and circulation:

• Their skin is much paler than usual or suddenly goes very white.
• Their nails are blue, or their big toe is completely white or spotty, or the colour does not return to the toe within three seconds of a squeeze.
• The skin around their mouth turns blue.
• A rash develops with reddish-purple spots or bruises - it’s especially important if the spots or bruises don’t disappear when you press a glass onto them.


• They find it difficult to breathe or stop breathing.
• They breathe more quickly than normal or grunt when breathing out.
• They make a high-pitched whistling sound (wheezing) when breathing out.

Vomiting and Diarrhoea

• They have vomited (thrown up) at least half the feed (food or milk) after each of the last three feeds.
• Their vomit is green.
• They have both vomiting and diarrhoea (loose and watery poo).
• They have drunk less and have fewer wet nappies or visits to the toilet than usual.
• They have blood in their poo.

(Courtesy Ministry of Health. See for more information)

Giving medicine to your child

If your child is sick and needs to take medicine, the most important thing is to get them to take it at the correct time and in the correct dose.

Here are some ideas you can try, depending on the age of your child and the type of medicine:

• Give your child a flavoured ice block or small ice cube to suck to numb their tongue before giving the medicine.
• Mix the medicine with a small amount (about one teaspoon) of something sweet such as honey (if over one year), jam, fruit puree, or ice cream. Don’t mix with essential foods because your child may refuse to eat them later.
• Give a drink of water, juice, soft drink, or an ice block after the medicine.
• If the medication has an unpleasant taste, get your child to pinch their nose and drink the medicine through a straw.

If the medicine is not going down, ask the pharmacist if it is possible to have the medicine in another form.


Hold your baby leaning back (not lying down) on your lap. Place their arm closest to you behind your back. Firmly hug your baby’s other arm and hand with your arm and hand, and snuggle their head between your arm and body. You could also gently hold their legs between yours. Your other hand is free to give the medicine

• Place syringe, measuring spoon or dropper in your baby’s mouth well back on their tongue or to the side of their tongue.
• Pour it in slowly to reduce the possibility of choking or spitting out.
• You could also try putting the medicine in a bottle teat and letting your baby suck on it.

Older infants and toddlers

• Offer medication in a syringe, spoon, or dropper (as with infants).
• You may need to hold your child if they struggle.
• If it is getting too difficult, wait for half an hour or so before trying again.

Preschool children

• Use a straightforward approach - simple persuasion often works.
• A special container can be helpful.
• Offer rewards, such as stickers or other things your child likes.

More information

Talk with your pharmacist, doctor, Well Child nurse, or call Healthline on 0800 611-116 if you need help.


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