7 Signs Your Sick Child Needs a Doctor
Getting sick is part of being a child, but it can be scary for parents. Some illnesses can seem mild, and suddenly take a terrifying turn; some symptoms can seem very serious and turn out to be nothing. Knowing when to call the doctor or take that trip to the emergency room isn’t always easy; here are seven signs that you should seek medical attention for your sick child.
- Fever – A low-grade fever is a natural reaction to many illnesses, and isn’t necessarily cause for alarm. However, a high fever or one that persists for more than 48 hours is a definite sign that your child needs medical attention.
- Vomiting – Vomiting is unpleasant, but par for the course with children. However, there are times when it should be taken seriously. Dark green bilious vomit is a sign of intestinal obstruction, and should be treated immediately. Vomiting accompanied by a severe headache is also a sign you should call the pediatrician; vomiting with abdominal pain can be an indicator of appendicitis, which is quite serious.
- Coughing – Mild coughing in an otherwise-healthy child will normally go away on its own without intervention, but a cough that worsens after 3-5 days or isn’t improving within two weeks should be treated. Deep coughing accompanied by chest pain and wheezing or difficulty breathing should be considered urgent.
- Dehydration – Diarrhea and vomiting resulting from a stomach virus can quickly lead to dehydration. Dry mouth, sunken eyes and the inability to produce tears are all signs of dehydration; if your child has these symptoms and can’t keep fluids down, you should contact your pediatrician.
- Lethargy – In medical terms, a lethargic child is one that is difficult to wake up. An alert child who wakes normally when stimulated isn’t lethargic, even if their energy level is far below the normal threshold. Difficulty waking your child or severe disorientation is usually considered an emergency; call your pediatrician immediately.
- Rashes – Rashes are common in children, and aren’t typically cause for concern. However, if your child has a rash and is running a fever, you should contact your pediatrician. A rash that doesn’t blanch under pressure or is purple is also a sign that you should call the doctor.
- Weight Loss – Weight loss in children is almost never considered normal, and can be a sign of a chronic or serious illness. If your child has suffered a sudden weight loss, you should contact your pediatrician and describe any other symptoms they have in addition to losing weight.
In addition to these symptoms, you should also seek medical attention if your child is vomiting or coughing up blood, you suspect an allergic reaction or if symptoms of a chronic illness worsen. Above all, follow your instincts as a parent. You know what is and isn’t normal for your child; don’t be afraid to contact your pediatrician’s office because of symptoms that aren’t typically considered serious but are cause for concern to you.