When it comes to your children's health, you usually know best. Parents seem to have a natural instinct that lets them know when their little ones are just cranky--or when they could be getting sick. But while you can often tell what's wrong with your child, there will undoubtedly be times when the symptoms will leave you feeling uncertain. When in doubt, the experts say you should always err on the side of caution and call the pediatrician.

Pay Attention

When your child doesn't seem like herself, you may suddenly feel worried. And while many experts recommend that you trust your gut and get a medical opinion, there are also some common guidelines that can help you know when something is likely to pass on its own and when it is time to call the pediatrician.

When to Call

Below is a summary of children's health signs provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics  that indicate that it's time to call the pediatrician and get his professional advice:

  •  If there is vomiting and diarrhea, particularly lasting beyond a few hours and/or with a fever
  • For a rash, especially if accompanied by a fever
  • When a cough or cold lingers beyond a few days without improvement, or a cold worsens and there is a fever
  • If your child has an ear ache or ear drainage
  • With a sore throat or difficulty swallowing
  • If your child is limping or finds it difficult to move an arm or leg
  • When there are stomach pains that are sharp or persistent
  • For a fever that is registers over 100.4 °F on a rectal thermometer for a newborn (under 2 months old)

While most of these symptoms can be assessed by your pediatrician, either over the phone or through a sick child health visit, there are also some more severe symptoms that warrant immediate treatment. These include:

  • Bleeding that can't be controlled
  • Ingesting a poisonous substance
  • Seizure
  • Difficulty breathing
  • High fever
  • Head injury (especially with unconsciousness, vomiting or paleness)
  • Urine or diarrhea with blood in it
  • Sudden lack of energy or difficulty moving
  • Sudden sharp pain anywhere that doesn't go away

Also remember that you should always call 911 and not wait for your pediatrician if the situation is an emergency.

Be Prepared

While emergencies do happen, most of the time, your child's symptoms won't be that pressing. In a routine situation, when you decide to call your pediatrician to discuss your concerns about your child, there are some easy things you can do to be prepared before you call so you will be sure to have all of your questions answered.  You should know the names and dosages of any of any medications your child is taking, be aware of what immunizations he or she has received and also make note if there is a fever.

With a little planning, you can be a great advocate for your children and ensure they get the very best health care.



American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)