Updated 30 March 2015

4 danger signs in children you should not miss

Spotting these four vital signs in your child could save his or her life.


Over 60 000 children aged between a month and five years die in South Africa each year. Many of the children die at home, despite having had prior contact with health services.

According to Esmé Abrahams, Netcare Garden City Hospital manager, more than 7 000 South African children under the age of 15 lose their lives as a result of various injuries each year. That translates to approximately twenty children per day.

Our children are so valuable and many accidents, deaths and serious illnesses can be avoided if you know what to look out for.  

Top health dangers to look out for in children

1.       Signs of difficulty breathing

Difficulty breathing can present in a number of ways. This include nasal flaring, recession of the skin and muscles under and in between the rib cage, and fast breathing.

ReadPreemies risk breathing problems

2.       Signs of dehydration

A dry mouth, little or no tears when crying, decreased number of wet nappies and excessive thirst

ReadTreating a dehydrated child

3.       Signs of head injury

With a history of head injury (child falling on his head, or being struck on the head) look out for a decreased level of consciousness, vomiting, strange behaviour, excessive sleepiness, weakness of any body part.

ReadFirst aid for head injuries

4.       Signs of severe infection

Often the cause of infection is not immediately apparent like in the case of middle ear or urinary tract infections.  Be on the lookout for high fevers, refusing to eat or drink anything, rapid pulse and rapid breathing.

ReadSpot an ear infection early

In short, if any of the following is present, your child needs urgent medical care:

1.       Refusing or unable to drink of breastfeed

2.       Excessive vomiting and/or diarrhoea

3.       The child is lethargic or unresponsive or have unusual behaviour

4.       Any fits or convulsions are present

Read more:

Your complete guide to first aid in an emergency
Home first aid kit
Ask Health24's Paediatrician questions about your child's health

Dr. Owen J. Wiese is Health24's resident doctor. After graduating from Stellenbosch University with additional qualifications in biochemistry and physiology he developed a keen interest in providing medical information through the media.




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