07 September 2019

40 symptoms in kids that you should never ignore

No, you're not being dramatic if you dial the doc for these reasons.

Being a parent is a daily exercise in trying to figure things out symptoms on the fly without admitting to your child that you don’t have all the answers. You’re expected to know how to fix bumps, pains and boo-boos with no hesitation, even though (last time you checked) you didn’t go to med school.

But for those times when you have zero freaking clue, that’s where your child’s paediatrician comes in. Of course, no one wants to be that parent who calls for minor issues, but you also don’t want to write off something that’s potentially a BFD. For the record, paediatricians say you should call if you’re ever unsure what’s going on — but especially when your child has one of these symptoms.

They’re wheezing

“Always call a doctor for wheezing,” says paediatrician Dr Patricia Garcia. “Wheezing shouldn’t be audible — it’s something you should hear with a stethoscope. If the wheezing is so bad a parent can hear it, then a doctor needs to know right away.”

They have a rash that’s spreading

Rashes are tricky, and they don’t always signal something serious. Often times if a rash is cause for concern it’s accompanied by other symptoms says paediatrician Dr Gina Posner.

That being said, if your child has a rash that’s spreading and it seems to be getting worse over time, it definitely warrants a call with or without other symptoms, says paediatrician Dr Ashanti Woods.

READ MORE: 11 Easy-To-Digest Foods For When Your Stomach Is Upset, According To A GI Doc

They have a burn

Anything “worse than a mild sunburn” needs a check-in with your doctor, Dr Garcia says. In addition to treating the burn at that particular moment, your doctor can also advise you on after-care. “If there are blisters or if the burn is on the face, neck or chest, or it’s over a large area, parents should seek immediate care,” she says.

They have a fever and they’re under three months old

It’s “safer” to call the doctor with children who are this young, Dr Posner says. “The problem with fever in babies is a lot of times you can’t tell the source because they’re not going to tell you,” she explains.

When a child so young has a fever, it could be a clue to anything from a urinary infection to meningitis, Dr Posner says. So, calling your doctor can help speed up the process of figuring out what’s going on and what next steps to take before it potentially gets more serious.

They have a fever that lasts for more than five days

Many viruses will cause about three days of a fever, Dr Posner says, so five days of that hot temp is a sign that something is off. It’s important to keep tabs on how your child feels as well, she says. If they’re uncomfortable, call your doctor sooner to err on the side of caution and to provide them relief from pain.

They have unexplained weakness

Paediatricians and parents are on high alert for acute flaccid myelitis (AFM), a polio-like virus. Unexplained weakness in your child doesn’t automatically mean that they have AFM, but it’s not a normal symptom and should be checked out, Dr Posner says.

They’re vomiting with a fever

This could be due to a virus, or it could be a sign of a urinary infection, Dr Posner says. Either way, it’s going to be tough for you to figure it out on your own.

They repeatedly have a fever over 40

Some kids tend to run high fevers, Dr Posner says, but 40 is definitely up there. Having a fever this high in children between six months and six years puts them at an increased risk for a febrile seizure, which is a seizure that happens due to a persistently high fever, Dr Woods says. “Call your doctor regardless about next steps,” he adds.

They have persistent diarrhoea

Diarrhoea that won’t go away could be a sign of a food-borne infection like campylobacter or salmonella, Dr Posner says. Keep this in mind, per Dr Garcia: Your paediatrician will usually want to know what it looks like (is it liquid or does it have some consistency, like apple sauce or pudding?). You may even want to take photos (sorry!).

They’re not breathing the way they normally do

Trouble breathing is always something you want to call about, Dr Woods says.

It’s hard to wake them up

This classifies as having an “altered mental status,” Dr Posner says, and it’s not something you want to mess with. Call your doctor if your child seems unusually groggy.

They can’t keep fluids down

Dehydration is the big concern. “It doesn’t take too long for a child to become dehydrated, and the younger the child is, the faster they become dehydrated,” Dr Garcia says.

A doctor can always hydrate them with intravenous fluids if it’s a dire situation.

READ MORE: Does A Salt Water Gargle Do Anything For A Sore Throat, Or Nah?

They’re under three months and have a cold

Nasal congestion can cause trouble eating in babies. “I always remind parents that you can’t effectively blow your nose until you’re about three to four years old,” Dr Garcia says. “Because babies have to breathe through their noses in order to eat, if their nose is blocked from congestion and/or mucus, then they can’t eat.” Your doctor will be able to advise you on how to de-stuff your baby.

They have ear pain that doesn’t go away

Always call for this one. “This can be an ear infection or swimmer’s ear, or even a foreign body [lodged in the ear],” Dr Garcia says. “I’ve seen lots of small objects in ears and the only complaint the child had was ear pain. Most of the time, the child couldn’t remember putting anything in their ear.”

They’ve had a runny nose for two weeks

Runny and stuffy noses can stick around for a while, but they should start to clear up after a few weeks. “If it’s not improving after two weeks, it’s worth checking in,” Dr Posner says.

They have a painful rash

“Very few rashes are actually painful unless there is an infection,” Dr Garcia says. If your child tells you their rash hurts, call your doctor ASAP. It could even be a sign of chickenpox or shingles, Dr Posner adds.

They have a bruise-like rash

A rash can be due to a lot of different things, but if it’s purple and bruise-like, it could be a sign of meningitis, Dr Posner says. Call your doctor ASAP.

It hurts to pee

This can be a sign of a urinary tract infection, says Dr Posner. A UTI usually doesn’t clear up without antibiotics, so you’ll definitely need your doctor’s help.

They have a deep cut, or one that won’t stop bleeding

A normal cut should stop bleeding after you apply pressure for five minutes, Dr Garcia says. But, if you’re not sure whether the cut is bad or deep enough to warrant stitches, call your doctor anyway.

They have severe throat pain

You “always” want to check in with your doctor about this, Dr Garcia says. It could be a sign of strep throat, mononucleosis or another infection and may require a course of medication.

They have bloody pee

This could be a sign of a UTI, or even a strep infection, Dr Posner says. Either way, it’s not normal and you’ll want to talk to your paediatrician about your child’s other symptoms.

They have bloody diarrhoea

“If you see blood in your child’s stool, call your doctor and please take some pictures before flushing,” Dr Garcia says. “Blood in stool can mean lots of things and knowing what it looks like can make a huge difference.”

Keep in mind, too, that there are lots of things that can make your kid’s poop look red, including food dyes. So there’s a chance that reddish poop is nothing to worry about, but it never hurts to check with an MD.

READ MORE: Does Taking Zinc Actually Do Anything To Help Kick A Cold?

They have a fever after being in the heat

This could be a sign of heat stroke or heat illness, which “can happen at any age,” Dr. Garcia says. Call the doctor for next steps.

Another important thing: Don’t do anything like putting your child in a cold bath or applying ice without talking to a doctor. “Although a cold bath/ice may sound like a good idea, it can actually make things worse,” Dr. Garcia says.

They have a severe headache

If your child complains of a headache, try ibuprofen, Dr. Posner says. But if it still persists, you’ll want to call the doctor—especially if your child has a fever, neck pain, vision changes, complains that light or sound bothers them, or if they have any unusual weakness, tingling, or numbness, Dr. Garcia says.

They have ear discharge

There could be a few things at play here, Dr. Garcia says. It could be a sign of an infection, or it could be a sign that your child has shoved something in there that’s been hanging out in their ear for a long time.

They have red, swollen eyes

“This can be from any number of things,” Dr. Posner says. It could be due to allergies, a scratch, a virus, or a bacterial infection. Whatever the cause, you’ll want to talk to your child’s doctor about their other symptoms and next steps.

They have a sudden sensitivity to light

“If it’s a new symptom, you’ll want to get it checked,” Dr. Posner says. Sensitivity to light can be a sign of a slew of health issues, including allergies, but your doctor will want to know about this one and more to rule out a more serious condition.

They have pain around their belly button

“While this can be a stomach virus or just indigestion, sometimes pain around the belly button can be the start of something more serious like appendicitis,” Dr. Garcia says. “Early on appendicitis pain is actually around the belly button. It is only later that it moves to the lower ride sight of the stomach.”

They have back pain and a fever

These can be symptoms of a UTI, Dr. Garcia says. But they can also be a tip-off that your child is struggling with pneumonia, Dr. Posner says. You’ll definitely want to make the call.

They have discoloured or cloudy pee

Discoloured or cloudy urine on its own could be a sign of dehydration, Dr. Posner says. But it can also be a sign of a UTI. If your child’s urine doesn’t change colour after drinking more liquids, or if they have pain along with their unusual pee, call the doctor.

They have diarrhoea that’s streaked with mucus

Mucus in your child’s diarrhoea could be a sign of a bacterial infection, Dr. Posner says—and that will need treatment. Call your doctor, and snap pics beforehand, if you can.

They have unusual vaginal discharge

If it’s thick and white, brown, or discoloured, or it smells bad, you’ll want to check in, Dr. Posner says. Depending on your child’s age, it can be a slew of different things (i.e., a yeast infection)—and your doctor will want to know more.

READ MORE: 10 Signs You’re Suffering From Mid-Year Burnout

They have penile discharge

This can be a sign of an infection, Dr. Posner says. Uncircumcised boys are more likely to get an infection of the foreskin, she notes.

Their cut or scrape is oozing

A cut or scrape that oozes pus, one that feels hot or tender, or looks red or swollen should “always” be checked out, Dr. Garcia says, adding that “these are signs of infection.”

They suddenly develop blisters

“With declining vaccine rates, it could be a lot of things, some of which are more dangerous than others,” Dr. Garcia says. “Parents should always call for this as soon as possible.” It’s also helpful to take pictures in this case because blisters can change, even over a few hours, she says.

They’re peeing a lot

This could be a symptom of a UTI… or it could be a sign of diabetes, Dr. Posner says.

It looks like their ribcage is pulling in

When some children have trouble breathing, it can look like “pulling” along the ribcage, Dr. Garcia says. “You might see the bottom of the rib cage or the space between the ribs when your child breathes in.” This is a sign of trouble breathing and you should call your doctor right away.

They have soda-coloured pee

Pee that’s darkly coloured like soda isn’t normal. “That’s definitely a sign of something being wrong,” Dr. Garcia says. This typically means that there’s blood in their urine (it looks brown because it’s older), she says.

They’re suddenly wetting the bed a lot

If your child starts having accidents out of nowhere, call the doctor. “It could be a sign of urinary tract infection,” Dr. Garcia says.

They make a whistling sound when they breathe

A high-pitched, whistling sound when your child breathes in is called stridor. You’ll want to call your doctor ASAP if this is happening—it’s a sign they’re having trouble breathing.

This article was originally published on 

Image credit: iStock




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