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Common winter illnesses

Bliss - Common winter illnesses

Note: The information featured on this page is currently under review, and will be updated in due course. Please ensure that you speak with your health care professional about any queries you may have about the issues covered here.

Coughs, colds and stuffy noses affect us all throughout the year. Nobody is entirely immune but some are at higher risk of catching an infection than others.

For the very young, and in particular those born prematurely, with lung problems or with a congenital heart condition, the high season of October to March can prove to be particularly challenging. These babies could be at higher risk of becoming more seriously ill following an infection.

One of the very best ways to avoid infections, especially if your baby is at high risk, is to be prepared. Talk to your GP, health visitor or staff on the neonatal unit before the high season begins in October, so that you are aware of the potential risks and know what to expect.

If your baby has been in hospital longer than eight weeks, he or she should have received their routine immunisations. If your baby was discharged from hospital before eight weeks, please contact your GP for further information regarding immunisations.

Reducing the risk of infection

Washing hands is vitally important in the fight against infection. Wash with warm, soapy water and dry your hands well before handling your baby. Encourage others to do the same.

Other ways you can reduce the spread of colds:

  • Use disposable tissues to wipe your baby’s runny nose and a clean piece of damp cotton wool to wipe each teary eye individually to avoid the spread of infection.
  • Use a tissue to catch your own sneezes, as the cold virus spreads through droplets produced when you sneeze.
  • Clean toys, highchairs and worktops regularly, as germs can live for up to 48 hours on surfaces.
  • Avoid contact as much as possible with other adults and children with cold-like symptoms.

When to call the doctor

  • If your baby has a fever – a temperature over 38°C (100.4°F).
  • If their temperature rises suddenly or the fever continues for more than two days.
  • If a cough lasts for more than a week or becomes wheezy, or if your baby
    develops any breathing difficulties.
  • If you notice a rash on your baby’s body.

Where to get help

NHS 111 England

NHS Direct Wales 

NHS 24 Scotland 


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