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Ask the Expert: When should I bring my child to the GP?

My toddler's nose is constantly runny

Q: "My two-year-old constantly has a runny nose and quite often a sore throat and cough. Should I take him to the doctor every time he gets sick or is that just wasting their time?"

A: GP Dr Jeremy Mellins says: "In young children, it's normal to get several minor illnesses every year. Often a child will start to recover from one illness, then quickly pick up another. There's usually no need to see your GP as most coughs and colds will be gone within seven to 21 days.

Most coughs and colds in otherwise healthy children are viruses. There is no treatment for viral infection and antibiotics cannot help, but can cause side effects. It's rarely useful to see the GP with minor illnesses but it is worth knowing some 'red flags' so that you will seek help at the right time.

These are: Illness lasting more than three weeks; temperature above 38C that won't come down with paracetamol or ibuprofen; can't drink or have stopped passing urine regularly; a rash that doesn't go pale when pressed, stiff neck, inability to tolerate bright light (dial 999); illness that gets suddenly worse; difficult to wake or unconscious (dial 999); trouble breathing or the chest sucks in with each breath (dial 999); coughing up bloodstained mucus.

In the main, if the child is alert, cool, drinking and passing urine, with none of the above signs, then you should be quite safe to manage at home."

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