Sickness — danger signs in children

Babies and young children get sick often — it is a normal part of childhood. They will usually get better after a few days. Learn about the danger signs to look out for.

Seek immediate medical advice

Get help quickly from a healthcare provider if your pēpi (baby) or tamariki (child) shows any of the danger signs on this page.

In an emergency call 111 and ask for an ambulance.

If they may have been poisoned, contact the National Poisons Centre on 0800 764 766

General danger signs

  • 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 1 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.


  • They feel too cold (temperature below 35ºC).
  • They feel too hot (temperature above 38.3ºC).

Skin colour and circulation

  • Their skin is much paler than usual, or suddenly goes very white.
  • Their nails are blue, their big toe is completely white or spotty, or the colour does not return to the toe within 3 seconds of a squeeze.
  • The skin around their mouth turns blue.
  • A rash develops with reddish-purple spots or bruises. It is especially important if the spots or bruises do not 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 3 feeds.
  • Their vomit is green.
  • They have both vomiting and diarrhoea (runny poo).
  • They have drunk less, and have fewer wet nappies or visits to the toilet than usual.
  • They have blood in their poo.