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Going Home - Recognising if your baby is unwell

How can I tell if my baby is unwell?

All parents worry about their baby getting sick

Any baby who is ‘off form’ should be considered unwell and should be checked out by the PHN, GP or your closest children’s emergency department. 

Signs that your baby is unwell

  • A change in your baby’s normal pattern of feeding or settling.
  • Poor colour or rapid breathing.
  • Drowsiness – when your baby does not wake up like they normally do.
  • Raised temperature – your baby may feel hot with a temperature above 37.5°C. See ‘Learn how to take your baby’s temperature’ below/LINK.
  • Poor feeding – your baby may be slow to feed or doesn’t want their feed. It is of concern when feed intake is reduced by one third or more over two or more feeds.
  • Vomiting more than normal or getting worse.
  • Dry nappies – nappies may be dry because baby is weeing less.
  • Diarrhoea or frequent loose or bad smelling poo.
  • Irritability – babies who are unwell generally do not like you to touch or move them and may be upset when you do.
  • Crying more than usual or persistent crying that is difficult to settle.
  • Whimpering – babies who are unwell generally have a low pitch whimper while healthy babies have a loud vigorous cry.
  • Reduced activity – being limp, listless or less active than usual.


Babies become unwell quicker than older children or adults. If you think your baby is unwell, get your baby checked up by a medical professional. 

Your baby’s temperature

  • Learn how to take your baby’s temperature.
  • Ensure that the thermometer you buy is suitable for use with small babies.
  • The normal body temperature for babies is 36.5 – 37.5°C.

Have a clear plan about how to get medical help if your baby becomes unwell

The options are:

  • To visit your baby’s GP
  • Ask your GP to make a home visit or
  • Bring your baby to the nearest children’s hospital/Emergency Department (ED).

If your baby has a specific medical condition that is being cared for at a specialist paediatric centre and becomes suddenly unwell, take them to that specialist centre, e.g. if your baby has a known heart problem under the care of CHI at Crumlin, take them there; or take them to the nearest emergency department if this is closer and time is critical.

In an emergency, dial 999 or 112.

Keep note of your eircode, so that if you are calling an ambulance, you can give them this and ensure that they find your house quickly.

Make contact with your GP soon after discharge home from the hospital. This will ensure your GP knows your baby if they become unwell.