If only children came with gauges or even an owner’s manual! Deciphering symptoms is an important part of being a parent and in keeping your child safe without rushing to the doctor at the drop of a hat.
You know your child. If there is something wrong, don’t be afraid to push your doctor or even find a new one if you can’t get answers.
But also, be aware that every baby eventually produces an orange diaper and antibiotics won’t cure a virus (and your kid will have a lot of viruses!).
Here are eight symptoms that every parent should look for from babies to teens (and even in adults).
If your child is not responsive or is unconscious, get help immediately. Call 911.
Children should wake up and then be alert. If your child is not able to wake up or is then unusually quiet or inactive or is not interested in a favorite toy, call your doctor.
Changes in responsiveness especially after a fall or hitting the head should result in an immediate doctor’s visit (more on that later) or ER visit if after hours.
7. Breathing Troubles
If your child is not breathing, call 911. If your child has shortness of breath, is panting without exercising, or is wheezing, call your doctor. Excessive coughing may indicate asthma, a serious illness, or something is lodged in the esophagus or trachea.
Look for blue around mouth, fingernails and lips. Check that the skin tone is not grey or pale. Watch nostrils to see if they are flaring. Check the ribcage to see if the skin sucks in as the child breathes.
Dehydration is caused by not drinking enough. It is serious! Your body must have water to operate properly.
You may get dehydrated because of vomiting, diarrhea, not drinking enough, and hard exercise without rehydrating.
Your child may be lethargic or irritable, have a headache, not be able to urinate or very dark urine, no tears when crying, and dry skin and lips.
Get your kid to drink anything while you call the doctor. Make a game of drinking – I sip, you sip.
Fevers are scary but are a normal part of your immune system response. If your baby is having a seizure and a fever, call 911.
Generally, call your doctor if fever follows these guidelines
- newborn to 3 months – 100.4F
- 3-6 months – 102F
- 6-24 months – 102F for 24 hours
- Children – 102F for 72 hours
- Teens – 103F for 3 or more days
If your child has a temperature but is acting normally, don’t worry. Coughing and other symptoms warrant closer observation.
4. Headaches, Dizziness, or Fainting
Headaches, dizziness, or fainting should be taken in context. If a child falls/hits their head and then has one of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. Hitting head and then vomiting, vision or mood changes, confusion or sensitiv0ity to light or noise, go to your doctor. These are symptoms of a concussion.
Talk to your doctor about persistent headaches headaches and vomiting that relieves pain, toddler headaches, and headaches with fever and neck stiffness should be investigated (the last one, immediately).
3. Inconsolable Crying
If your baby/toddler is inconsolable, doesn’t want to be held, or the crying sounds wrong and especially if there is a fever, call your doctor. There are a lot of reasons for inconsolable crying.
While you are waiting for your doc to call back, check fingers and toes for something wrapped around it, an uncomfortable clothing tag, or other small causes. Ask about a tender tummy on the right side. Look for a rash that won’t fade temporarily when pressed gently.
2. Frequent Urination with Weight Loss, Thirst and Lethargy
Look out for frequent trips to the bathroom and excessive thirst with weight loss and lethargy. These can be signs of Type 1 diabetes. Since this is a life-threatening condition, talk to your doctor immediately.
These can be signs of Type 1 diabetes. See a doctor as soon as possible.
These may also be signs of an eating disorder. Doctors are seeing increased eating disorders in younger girls and boys. Eating disorders have long term health consequences, so talk to your doctor.
1. Chronic Diarrhea and Vomiting
Your body uses diarrhea and vomiting rid itself of “bad” food or other toxins. Once or twice is normal. Chronic diarrhea and vomiting are symptoms of a serious infection and leads to dehydration. This is particularly dangerous for young children and babies. Call your doctor!
If the output looks wrong or has blood (black tar or red streaks or blobs) or bile (greenish slime) or mucus (white slime), take your child to the doctor. It’s gross to look, but it’s important!
Parenthood, especially for babies, seems to be a balance between terror and exhaustion! By paying attention to clues, you can get a better read on how your child is feeling and whether or not to go to the doctor or call 911. Normal behavior with a fever or cough is ok. Wait it out.
Abnormal behavior is always a cause for concern. Have it checked out. Seizures are not normal, with or without fever. Get help immediately. Dehydration can be deadly. Get your kid to drink while calling the doctor.
For new parents, you’ll figure it out eventually. Then your kid will throw new curveballs at you!