What to do if your child becomes unwell

If your child is unwell or you have any concerns during the hours of 8:30 - 18:30 you will need to call the department and may be asked to attend for review.

Oncology Outpatients: 0121 333 9282

Out of these hours call: Ward 18 - 0121 333 9132

You can call your local POSCU team if you have shared care

During treatment for cancer your child’s immune system will be unable to deal with infections in the usual way. This means that they can develop infections more easily and can become unwell very quickly. If your child experiences any of the following at home, you must telephone to let us know straight away:

  • A temperature above 38° C – or if they feel much hotter than usual
  • A temperature below 36°C – this can also be a sign of infection
  • If your child feels or looks unwell, even if they have a normal temperature – this can include being pale, quiet and lethargic, looking a different colour or if their breathing is different. Your child may be ‘just not quite right’.

All the above can be a sign of an infection. It’s very important that we treat infections quickly while your child has a weakened immune system. The nurse will ask questions to assess your child so that we can advise you on what to do next. 

If your child has been asked to come in for review to Oncology Outpatients, you will need to do so before 17.00hrs.  After this time, you will be asked to go directly to the Accident and Emergency Department.

Other symptoms

Please also contact us if your child experiences any of the symptoms below:

  • Your child has new bruising, or is bleeding and you can’t stop it (nose bleeds, blood in urine or stool, etc)
  • Your child isn’t drinking
  • Your child hasn’t passed urine for a long time, or your baby’s nappy is dry for a long time
  • Your child isn’t eating or is losing weight
  • Your child has a sore mouth, especially if this is stopping them from eating and drinking
  • Your child develops pain
  • Your child has diarrhoea and/or vomiting or is constipated
  • Your child has developed new sore areas (such as nappy area)
  • Your child has a problem with their central line

Nausea and Vomiting

Some of your child’s treatment may cause nausea (feeling sick) or vomiting. During treatment your child will receive anti-sickness medications. These can be given orally as tablets/ liquids or through a central line. Your child will be provided with a supply to take home to use if required. If your child begins to feel very sick or be sick, please call and let us know.


Children who have had antibiotics and who have had chemotherapy may have loose stools (diarrhoea). If your child is well and is managing to eat and drink, give frequent fluids and keep monitoring the situation. If they have a lot of vomiting or are passing lots of stool then please contact us using the number above.

Eating and Drinking

During treatment your child may experience changes in taste and smell which could affect what they like to eat. They may also lose their appetite. Encourage your child to choose their own foods and offer smaller meals or snacks during the day. High-calorie and high-protein food may help prevent weight loss. If you feel your child is not managing to eat or is losing weight, please ask to speak to a dietician.

There are some foods which may be associated with a higher risk of infection. The advice is similar to that given to women during pregnancy. Avoid foods that contain raw eggs, mould-ripened soft cheeses and raw fish and paté. Please wash all fruits and vegetables and ensure meat and fish is cooked thoroughly.

You may wish to avoid takeaways and restaurants with a lower hygiene star rating.

Young Lives vs Cancer - How can I help my child to eat well during treatment?

Mouth Care

Treatment may make your child more susceptible to mouth sores and infections. The best thing that you can do to help your child is ensure regular mouth care. We advise that your child brushes their teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush, which should be replaced regularly. If your child begins to develop mouth sores please let us know. There are mouthwashes we can provide to help lessen the risk of infection and ease any pain.

Chicken Pox and Measles

Chicken pox and measles can cause problems in children who have received chemotherapy. If you think your child has had contact with someone with chicken pox please telephone us to let us know. Treatment can be given to lessen the severity of the infection.