One of the most difficult things for any parent is when their child gets sick. New parents especially may panic at the first signs of illness or distress, and it is so difficult to know what your child needs. There are times when there is nothing to do except offer extra snuggles and kisses, but there are also times that call for a trip to the ER.
The trick is learning which symptoms could be extremely dangerous and which ones will pass on their own. The golden rule, however, is when in doubt, GO. Call your pediatrician anytime you are unsure, and if they are not available, there is no harm in taking your child to the hospital just to make sure there’s nothing serious going on. Just to give you an idea of things to be on the lookout for, here are five symptoms that should never be ignored and elicit a trip to the emergency room.
Fevers are tricky because they are one of those things that fill you with panic as soon as the number pops up on the thermometer but can also be present with no effect on your child. With an infant, a fever of 100.4 or higher is extremely dangerous and your baby needs to be seen immediately. Even if your baby seems okay, fevers that are caused by anything bacterial can spread infection throughout the body. The effects of a fever on an infant can be detrimental or even fatal.
For toddlers and older children, be on the lookout for temperatures over 103 degrees. At this age, your child’s behavior is more of an indicator than the number. If your child seems to be doing alright, try treating the fever with Tylenol. If the fever persists, have them seen by a doctor.
There are other symptoms that accompany fevers that you also need to be on the lookout for. A persistent fever that is unaffected by acetaminophen or ibuprofen is a possible cause for alarm and your pediatrician should definitely be called. Also a fever that lasts more than 3-5 days needs medical attention.
If your child is complaining of a headache along with a fever or even a stiff neck, they need to be seen immediately. If there is a rash made up of little red dots or that looks like a bruise present along with the fever, they also need medical attention. All of these are possible signs of meningitis and will not go away without medical help.
While children are notorious for claiming to have “tummy aches” at any given time, there are times when you need to take them seriously. If your child is complaining of pain on the right side of their abdomen, it could be a sign of appendicitis. One way to know if it’s something to be concerned about is to have your child jump. If this causes serious pain, it’s time to head to the hospital. Appendicitis cannot be treated at home and requires immediate surgery to remove the appendix and avoid possible serious complications.
Children under the age of four are susceptible to a disorder called intussusception which is where one part of the intestines actually slides over into the other. Your child may suddenly be in excruciating pain and then be fine the next minute and this will happen every 20 to 60 minutes. Other signs of this disorder include fever, vomiting, and even blood in their stool. If your child is displaying signs of pain along with any of the other symptoms, do not wait; head to the nearest emergency room.
Sadly, even the tiniest children are susceptible to headaches. If your child complains of headaches first thing in the morning or if they are awoken by headaches in the middle of the night, they need to be seen. Often these are signs of migraines, which if you’ve ever experienced them, you know they are excruciating.
Often, headaches that occur only in the middle of the night or when first awakening can be a sign of serious internal or neurological issues that need immediate attention to properly diagnose and treat.
Infants are definitely the most difficult to understand when it comes to illness. For the most part they just cry, no matter what it is that’s bothering them. They can’t show or tell you what’s wrong and you are left feeling like a detective as you observe them for the cause of the problem.
Some very clear signs that your baby needs medical attention are:
- Dry mouth or lips
- Decreased urine output
- Dry skin
- Skin that stays pinched together when you press it
- Excess diarrhea or vomiting
- Flat fontanel (soft spot on top of the head)
These symptoms are signs of dehydration and your child needs fluids immediately. If they are constantly vomiting or have diarrhea, anything you are giving them is coming right back out. The younger your baby, the quicker you need to get them to the hospital.
Watch the Mouth
Your child’s mouth can tell you a lot about what is happening and what needs to be done. If your child suddenly has swollen lips or a swollen tongue, it is usually a sign of anaphylaxis; a serious allergic reaction. If the swelling is accompanied by vomiting or itching, you need to call 911 immediately. These symptoms usually lead to a swelling of the throat which will cut off your child’s airway.
Discoloration around the mouth, particularly if it is blue, is another sign that you need emergency help. If your child has blue lips and is struggling to breathe, it could be from a few different things, but no matter what it is, it needs attention.
Breathing issues can be caused by choking, allergic reactions, pneumonia, croup, asthma, or even whooping cough. Any sign of blue or discoloration around your child’s mouth means a lack of oxygen and elicits a call to 911.