Your child’s Red Book – a guide to what’s inside

Your child's 'Red Book' holds his health and progress information but it can be confusing to know how, when and why to use it

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When your baby is around 10 days old, your Health Visitor will give you his Personal Child Health Record, or ‘Red Book’.

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This holds medical information about your child from birth to 4 years old. Sometimes it’s given to you at the hospital when your baby is born.

The Red Book contains your baby’s details and information about his growth and development – it’s where his measurements are recorded and his immunisations are detailed.

Health Visitors and Doctors will need to review this information, so you need to bring the Red Book to any medical appointments.

What’s in the Red Book?

The red book is divided into four sections:

Child, Family and Birth details/Local and Information Sources – This first section of the book lists your child’s name, NHS number and date of birth. It contains personal information (address, parent names and history) as well as the details of your birth experience and discharge from hospital.

You’ll also find information about local and national services, like NHS Direct, SureStart Children’s Centres and Parentline.

Immunisations – The second section of the Red Book is where his immunisations are recorded and explained.

You’ll find the vaccination time plan, as well as an explanation of what each vaccination is for. Each time your tot has a jab, the nurse will record it in his book.

Vaccine records should be kept up to date because there may be times when you’ll need to show proof of your child’s immunisations, for instance when they go to school.

Screening and Routine Reviews – This section records information on screening tests and other health checks. These checks include hearing tests and checks of your baby’s eyes. It’s also where your Health Visitor will record the findings of your child’s yearly and two yearly ‘reviews’ – meetings to monitor their progress.

Growth Charts and Other Information – The final section of the Red Book contains information about growth and development (what is typically achieved at each stage of your child’s young life) as well as the growth charts where you record your child’s height, weight and head circumference.

Growth charts are graphs that show the average pattern of growth for healthy children. By plotting your child’s height and weight and head circumference on the graphs, medics can compare how he is growing against other children of the same age.

The graphs are divided into centiles. For example, your child might be on the 50th centile for height. 

This simply means that if 100 boys of his age are arranged in ascending order of height then she is at the 50th position – he is taller than 49 boys, but shorter than 50 boys. His height is within normal limits.

The importance is not always what percentile your child is on but rather that their growth is stays on, or around the same centile over time.

Changes to the Red Book

In May 2009, in England, the Red Book was changed to incorporate the new UK-WHO Growth Charts. The old charts were based on the average growth of bottle-fed babies. They now refer to breastfed and bottle-fed babies.

The new charts came into use in Scotland in January 2010. Check with your Health Visitor to make sure you receive the correct version of the Red Book.

The Red Book (Personal Child Health Record) is an important book, which should have pride of place in your changing bag for the first few years and serves as a record of your child’s growth and development over time. 

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