North London Partners in health and care

Children and young people’s health services

Coughs and colds in children: advice for parents and carers

The NHS is seeing an increase in respiratory illness in children, as COVID restrictions ease and people mix more.

For the majority of children, respiratory illnesses (coughs and colds) are not serious and they will soon recover following rest and plenty of fluids.

But some children under two, especially those born prematurely or with a heart condition, can experience more severe illness.

Parents and carers are encouraged to look out for symptoms of a severe infection and to contact a healthcare professional when concerned.   

Local GP, Dr Oliver Anglin said: “Respiratory infections in children are very common and most of the time your child can be looked after safely at home, without seeing a doctor.

“Symptoms of severe respiratory infection in children include a dry and persistent cough and finding it hard to breathe – which could be rapid or noisy breathing (wheezing) or drawing in of the muscles below their lower ribs, at their neck, or between their ribs.

“You should contact your GP or call NHS 111 if your child has problems breathing, has taken less than half their usual amount during the last two or three feeds, has had a dry nappy for 12 hours or more, or has a persistent high temperature of 38C or above.

“I recommend you have a look at this great, simple NHS health advice for parents and carers booklet which will help you work out whether your child can be looked after at home with some help from the pharmacist or if they need to be seen by a doctor.”

To download the booklet, available in English and community languages, see downloads section.

Children and Young People's services across NCL

Children and Young People’s (CYP) services across NCL at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), Royal Free Hospitals, North Middlesex, University College London Hospitals (UCLH), Whittington Health, Central and North West London NHS Trust, Barnet, Enfield and Haringey NHS Trust and Tavistock & Portman have been working collectively to maximise their benefit for children and young people throughout the Covid-19 response.

Reopening children and young people’s emergency and inpatient care 

Last year, temporary changes were made to children and young people’s services in North Central London to ensure patients and families could continue to receive safe and high quality care during a period of increased demand for services due to Covid-19. This led to children and young people’s emergency and inpatient services being moved from the Royal Free Hospital and University College Hospital to the southern hub at the Whittington Hospital.

We have now reopened the children and young people’s accident and emergency departments and general inpatient wards at University College Hospital and at the Royal Free Hospital.

If any parent is unsure where they should take a child in need of emergency treatment they should visit or call the NHS 111 service. In a life-threatening emergency dial 999 immediately.

Paediatric emergency services

For anyone aged under 18 who needs care in an accident or an emergency situation, please visit to find the closest A&E department. 

In an emergency, Ambulance Services will automatically take patients to alternative hospitals during this period.


Immunisations for young children and baby checks after birth are essential for children's health and are still being delivered by NCL GPs.