Christmas is almost here and with it the common bugs, viruses and general illnesses children pick up from parties and family gatherings.

But how can parents tell whether their child needs medical attention or just a little TLC? And what services are available during the festive period if your child falls ill?

Consultant paediatrician at the Countess of Chester Hospital and expert on Channel 4s Born Naughty Dr Ravi Jayaram, has issued some handy tips for parents over Christmas to make sure they know what to do if their little ones get sick.

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He said: “Firstly I’d like to reassure people that if your child is unwell over the Christmas period, including the weekends and bank holidays, that GPs are there.

“There is always a GP service available. If you ring your GP out of hours you will automatically be put through to the out of hours service here at the Countess so you don’t have to go to A&E.

“But if your child is really struggling, for example if they are choking or look pale or blue, again, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, A&E is available with junior doctors, senior nurses and consultants on hand to offer diagnosis and treatment.”

Dr Ravi added: “Children don’t have the best hygiene, they don’t put their hands over their mouths and under 5s will get, on average, 12 viral colds a year.

“That’s a lot of coughing and snotty noses. It can be a worry for parents, particularly if the symptoms persist, but in reality most children will be fine with paracetamol and a little tender loving care.

“Even if your child has a temperature or an impressive looking rash it doesn’t mean there is something bad going on. Where parents should be concerned is if a rash for example, fails the glass test. If you press the rash with a glass tumbler and the colour does not disappear, you need to seek medical advice.

“Similarly if a temperature is accompanied by lethargy and listlessness and a disinterest in food or drink, it is important to have your child seen. If your child remains active and interested in food or drink, you can probably manage them at home.”

But the most visible symptoms do not always indicate the biggest concerns.

“If it is really easy to see why they are unwell, if they have a streaming nose and are coughing and sneezing, then there is probably not much a doctor will be able to do for them.

“But if a child is struggling to breathe, if their ribs are sucking in and out, you ought to get them seen.

“I’ve put together some tips to help guide parents but I also want to reassure mums and dads out there that if their child is unwell, and unwell enough to need to be seen, they will be seen by the right people 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Dr Ravi's top tips: