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Recognising serious illnesses in babies and young children can be hard, because the early signs of many childhood illnesses look similar. You know your child best, so trust your instincts if your child doesn’t seem well.


A child’s average body temperature is about 37°C.

Using a thermometer is the best way to check your child’s temperature. Feeling your child’s skin temperature – for example, by putting your hand to his forehead – isn’t always a reliable way of diagnosing a fever.

If your newborn develops a fever, take him to your GP straight away. The GP will check to make sure your baby has no serious underlying illnesses.

If you need urgent medical advice or information, you can phone the Healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222.

When to call an ambulance or seek medical attention

If you notice any of the following signs and symptoms, call 000 and ask for an ambulance:

  • drowsiness – for example, if your child seems sleepier than usual, or you have trouble waking him up
  • high-pitched, weak or continuous crying
  • difficulty breathing or unusual breathing
  • pale, mottled or blue skin
  • unresponsiveness
  • fits or seizures
  • bulging fontanelle (the soft spot on the top of baby’s head)
  • non-blanching rash – that is, a rash that doesn’t fade after you press your child’s skin.

Also seek medical attention if you notice any of the following signs or symptoms:

  • poor urine output
  • poor feeding
  • frequent vomiting.
  • Last updated or reviewed 05-06-2017