As a parent, it’s hard to know when you need to see the doctor versus stick it out at home. What signs and symptoms are more concerning than others? While you should always talk to your physician or nurse for specific information about your child, here we’ll discuss 10 common pediatric conditions and when you should seek immediate medical attention:
1. Difficulty breathing – If your child has difficulty breathing, it’s a no-brainer, call 911 and get them seen immediately. Difficulty breathing can be commonly caused by a variety of conditions including, asthma,
allergies, congestion, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, and foreign body ingestion to name a few. It is never safe to watch and wait at home if your child has difficulty breathing, often characterized by increased accessory muscle
use, wheezing, abdominal breathing, grunting, gasping, or bluish color.
2. Allergic reaction – from ant bites to food allergies, recognizing the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction is important. Allergic reactions can involve difficulty breathing and swelling of the throat which is a true medical emergency.
3. Fever-Fevers are always a point of contention for parents. While some parents rush to the doctor at the sight of fever, that’s not always immediately necessary. Here are a few things to consider first. A fever is considered a temperature of 100.4 or higher. Fever is a sign that our body is producing fighting for us and is not a bad sign in itself.
Fever management should be the first step when evaluating fever. In young children (generally younger than 5 years), a rapid rate of rising fever can cause seizures which should be evaluated immediately. If you can control a fever without much intervention and your child is otherwise healthy and normal, it may not be necessary to visit the doctor. However, if you are concerned about significant infection, or contagiousness, it may be appropriate to see a physician.
Certain patients SHOULD be evaluated by a physician when fever develops. They include the following:
- Patients with Sickle cell disease ( or any condition without a functional spleen)
- Babies (especially < 2months)
- Infants < 1-year-old with no additional symptoms
- Anyone with Fever >4 days, Lethargy/abnormal behavior, and Seizures
4. Vomiting/diarrhea – Vomiting and diarrhea are very common symptoms in children and can be caused by a variety of conditions from a stomach virus to food poisoning to irritable bowel syndrome. While these symptoms should be evaluated if they don’t resolve on their own, you should see a physician if you observe:
- The presence of blood in the stool
- Signs and symptoms of dehydration
5. Accidental ingestion – Whether it’s one pill or 30, call 911 and poison control and immediately seek medical attention for any accidental ingestion.
6. Abdominal pain – Abdominal pain is one of the most common things that children complain about? So as a parent, how do you know if it’s significant?
If your child’s abdominal pain is severe or associated with uncontrollable vomiting, high fever, or pain with jumping, seek immediate medical attention. If your child’s abdominal pain is not severe, assess the child’s diet, bowel movements, and other associated symptoms. Treat any underlying causes (menstrual cramps, constipation, etc…). If the pain persists, make sure to get your child evaluated by their doctor.
8. Abnormal behavior-If you observe any abnormal behaviors in your child like confusion, abnormal drowsiness, lethargy, or any other uncharacteristic behaviors, you should immediately seek medical attention to rule out significant problems.
9. Head injuries-Children of all ages get bumps and bruises. However, injuries to the head must be taken seriously. Any change in behavior or significant headache associated with a head injury should be evaluated immediately. Call your doctor and explain the mechanism of injury for other head injuries to determine exactly when you need to be seen.
10. Severe pain– Sometimes, the source of severe pain may be evident but often it is not. You can control mild pain at home with analgesic or natural remedies but severe pain, especially without a source, should be promptly evaluated by your physician.
The content in this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical
advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or
other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a
medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in
seeking it because of the information presented in this blog.