Children’s Health Symptoms You Should Be Concerned About

Children often have aches, pains, and other minor symptoms that aren’t really a cause for concern. Parents don’t want to run to the doctor for ever sniffle or tummy ache, but which symptoms are really a cause for concern? It’s good to trust your gut as a parent and seek medical attention if something seems “off.” More specifically, if any of the following symptoms are present, call your pediatrician.

  • A high fever warrants medical care. The definition of “high fever” varies with age, and in a baby younger than three months, anything 100.4°F or higher requires immediate medical care. However, in a child between three and six months old, the threshold for alarm rises to 101°F and in children six months to two years it’s 103° In a child over two years old, acting normal, and seems to be well-hydrated, it’s probably not an urgent matter, but it’s worth calling your pediatrician’s office for advice. Note: a fever that lasts more than five days or doesn’t respond to treatment always warrants a doctor’s appointment.
  • Sometimes a headache is more than “just a headache.” If your child has a headache and a fever, call the doctor. If he or she also has a stiff neck and a rash, seek immediate medical care, because these can be signs of meningitis. A headache in the morning or middle of the night, or a headache with vomiting, may be a migraine or something more serious, so see a doctor right away.
  • Pay attention to rashes and moles. A ring-shaped rash could be Lyme disease, and pinpoint-size spots under the skin could signal a serious condition. Widespread, unexplained bruising may indicate a blood disorder, and other rashes can be signs of allergies. Especially if the child is also having trouble breathing, has a swollen face, is itchy or vomiting, or is agitated or lethargic, see a doctor immediately. Keep an eye on moles, too, doing a monthly check at bath time. Irregularly shaped moles that are different colors, raised, or have ragged borders could be signs of skin cancer. A mole that’s been there since birth has a higher risk of becoming malignant than other moles.
  • Don’t dismiss a stomachache. While some tummy aches are minor complaints, a sudden pain on the lower right side could be a sign of appendicitis. Other symptoms include diarrhea, then abdominal pain, then vomiting, increasing pain, and fever. Another serious condition for children under four is intussusception, a disorder in which one part of the intestine slides into the other. This causes pain in 20 to 60 minute spells, and may be accompanied by fever, vomiting, blood in the stool, or bowel movements with a “currant jelly” appearance. Both illnesses require immediate medical care.
  • Address breathing issues immediately. Did you know that 8 percent of children in the U.S. have asthma? If your child has trouble breathing when exercising, whistles when exhaling, has shortness of breath, or has trouble recovering after a respiratory infection, talk to your pediatrician about asthma. On the other hand, if your child has blue lips or discoloration around the mouth, has trouble breathing and is sucking in the chest and abdomen, or has troublesome sounds coming from the chest and lungs, seek help right away or call 911.
  • Keep an eye on the eyes and ears. If your baby doesn’t respond to loud sounds, schedule a hearing test. With older children, take precautions about noise exposure, keeping devices at half volume or below and limiting time around loud noises, to prevent permanent hearing damage. As to the eyes, notice whether your baby doesn’t seem to focus on objects or your school-aged child is squinting, having trouble reading, or sitting too close to the TV. If you notice these things, schedule a vision screening.
  • Extreme fatigue can signal a problem. Talk to your pediatrician, because it could indicate anemia, malabsorption syndrome, or depression.
  • Urinating frequently or infrequently can each signal a problem. Decreased urination, especially with excessive vomiting or diarrhea, dry mouth and lips, or skin that’s dry or stays bunched when you pinch it, could signal serious dehydration. Increased urination, especially with excessive thirst, extreme hunger, weight loss, or fatigue, could signal type 1 diabetes.
  • Recognize serious injuries. Kids often fall and hurt themselves, but how do you know if an injury requires medical attention? If your child is less than 6 months old, always see a doctor. If there’s confusion, loss of consciousness, or other neurological changes, vomits after falling, or seems to have damage to the body, like a broken bone, it’s a medical emergency. The same holds true for a cut that gapes open as wide as a cotton swab or doesn’t stop bleeding when you apply pressure.

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