How to Know When Your Sick Child Needs A Physician’s Care

Children have young immune systems that make them susceptible to illness, especially when they enter daycare or head to school for the first time and begin to exchange germs with other kids.

Most common sickness is minor and can be easily treated at home (see GetzWell’s Guide to Managing Colds and Minor Viral Infections), while a few things require an appointment with the doctor. In this post, we’ll underline the symptoms that indicate when it’s time to get your little one to his pediatrician.

What worrisome symptoms should you look out for?

Illnesses become problematic when symptoms worsen over time, develop into bacterial complications, and/or persist in spite of treatment. Here is a list of worrisome symptoms that indicate your child should see a physician:

– Persistent pain: sore throat, severe headache, stomachache, etc. – Earache or discharge from the ear – Coughs (without respiratory distress or wheezing) that last more than three (2) weeks OR a worsening cough

– Respiratory distress: working extra hard to breathe or breathing is fast, labored, or accompanied by unusual noises, e.g. wheezing.

– Frequent vomiting or diarrhea

– Blood in vomit or diarrhea – Thick eye discharge that is consistent throughout the day – A stiff neck or extreme lack of energy

– The illness worsens rather than staying the same for more than three (3) days

– Exposure to a contagious disease, ex: mono, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, the flu, or unknown illness from recent foreign travel

When does a fever require medical attention?

In our Fever Phobia post, we explain that fevers are part of the body’s natural defense and play a role in activating the immune system and fighting against infection.

Generally, fevers only need to be treated if they cause your child discomfort. However, if your baby is less than 4 months old and has a fever, you should call your doctor right away. The following are other cases which should prompt you to call your doctor:

–           If the fever lasts more than three (3) days.

–           If the fever disappears for 24 hours and then returns.

–           Fevers > 104 F (>40.0 C) – high fevers can cause discomfort but are harmless

–           Fevers > 105 F (>40.6 C) – higher risk of bacterial infection

–           Fevers > 108 F (>42.2 C) – the fever itself can be harmful

Reassuring signs that your child is in the clear.

In most cases, the way your child looks and feels is often more important than their exact temperature or symptom. If your child is still alert, interactive, curious, is drinking and urinating without complication, isn’t complaining of pain or discomfort, then most likely the illness just needs to run its course.

For ways to ease your child’s discomfort and offset their symptoms, consult our list of comfort measures, immune boosting products, and harmless treatments listed in our Guide to Managing Colds and Minor Viral Infections.

GetzWell is here to help.

If your child is experiencing any of the worrisome symptoms listed above, please give us a call us at 415.826.1701. We provide 24/7 physician access, and for members we always accommodate same day appointments for urgent and sick visits. We’ll also work closely with you to find the best treatment suited to your child’s specific needs.