Childhood Illnesses


Some illnesses such as coughs and colds can spread from one person to another very easily. There are some simple things that you can do to reduce the risk of this happening. 

  • Wash your hands using hot water and soap regularly. Make sure children do the same.
  • Use a tissue when you blow your nose, cough or sneeze then throw it away and wash your hands afterwards.
  • Don’t share towels, cups or drinks bottles especially with anyone who is unwell.
  • Keep surfaces where food is prepared clean. Keep bathrooms and toilets clean.
  • Touch as few surfaces as possible when you are out and about and wash your hands when you get home.

If you are unwell try and avoid close contact with others who may be more sensitive to illnesses like the very young, the elderly or those who have other health problems.

Dive Deeper


Handwashing is the best way of avoiding germs and passing them around if we get ill. Set a good example to your children by being a regular hand washer yourself. Your children will need help and supervision to wash their hands well until they are around 8 years old and will probably need reminding after that too!

How Often To Wash Hands

Hands should be washed:

    • After using the toilet / changing nappies
    • Before preparing or eating food
    • Before preparing babies bottles
    • After being outside playing or gardening
    • After coughing or sneezing or touching dirty tissues
    • Before and after looking after anyone who is being sick /feeling poorly
    • After touching animals
    • Any other time you think they look grubby!

Washing your hands does not need to take long – about twenty seconds (sing Happy Birthday twice!).

How To Wash Hands

Steps for good handwashing:

    • Wet your hands
    • Add soap to your wet hands
    • Rub hands together palm to palm
    • Use one hand to rub the back of one hand then swap over
    • Clean in between your fingers
    • Rub your fingers into your soapy palms cleaning the nails and tips of fingers
    • Clean your thumbs
    • Rinse well – dry well on a clean towel (paper or dryer when out).

There are great videos for you and your children to watch together to make sure your hand washing works well to protect you from germs.

What if There is No Soap?

Soap and water is a really effective way to clean your skin. Sometimes it may not be available.

When this happens you can use an alcohol gel sanitiser – it is useful to have in your bag.  Although baby wipes clean your hands they do not kill germs in the way that soap and water or an alcohol gel will.

If you are not able to wash your hands – be especially careful not to touch your face, or eat, until you get back to a place where you can give them a really good wash with soap and water.

 Talking to Your Child

We want children to understand the importance of protecting themselves from germs but we do not want them to become worried and anxious about it.

Young children will not understand the importance of good hygiene to avoid germs that make them ill. Because they like to copy you – if they see you washing your hands regularly, then they will get into this important habit from an early age.

Tell them what you are doing and why:

 ‘We are washing our hands because we have been playing outside and I don’t want the dirt to get off my hands and on my sandwich – that might make me ill’

Some children get very worried about germs. Sometimes there is a lot of information on the news about illnesses and this can be hard for them to understand – it can sound frightening even though the facts might be that children are at a low risk.

Although it is important to know about the risk to our health, you can reassure them that there are easy ways to keep safe.

    • Be calm yourself when talking to your child – they will pick up on your anxiety.
    • Explain to them all the things that you, and they, do to keep safe from germs - like handwashing, using tissues, keeping the house clean.

Talk about how you have protected them from a lot of serious illnesses by having them immunised when they were little. Remind them that they are young and strong, and even if they get poorly from a germ they are likely to get better quickly!

Discuss how we can keep well by making healthy choices – eating fruit and vegetables and getting exercise. This helps us have a strong immune system and protects us from germs.

Watch a video about how the immune system works

Cleaning Your House

Germs are found in our home but we can keep our families well by keeping the house clean. It is better to clean little and often rather than waiting until houses need a ‘deep clean’. If you are busy concentrate on keeping kitchens and bathrooms clean daily and other areas when you have more time. 

  • Try and keep the areas tidy and get rid of rubbish quickly.
  • Wipe down all surfaces using a disinfectant. Start cleaning in the cleanest area and finish with the dirtiest – so that you don’t spread the germs around.
  • Use cloths, sponges or paper towels that you can easily throw away, or wash on a very hot wash after.
  • Make sure you wash your hands well with soap and water after you’ve finished cleaning.

Handwashing Videos 

Who can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

The Lullaby Trust - Baby Check App- This app has simple checks that you can do if your baby is ill and helps you think about whether they need to see a doctor or health professional.

You can speak to other Norfolk parents and carers by clicking our online community forum below.

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