Childhood Illness: Knowing When to Call the Doctor: Observing a Sick Child

Physicians may start their examination of a sick child by watching to see how a child acts. The doctor will  stimulate the child and notice the response.

Parents can also learn about the child’s health by watching how they behave. For example, if your child has a runny nose, a low-grade fever, and diarrhea, but is playing, looking around, and is responding to you in the normal fashion, then the illness is unlikely to be serious. It will probably clear up in a few days.

A child can be seriously ill without obvious symptoms. If you feel your child is seriously ill, you should pay attention to that feeling. Call us for advice.

If you have questions it is often better to call or email your child’s doctor instead of going to the office. This way your child will not be unnecessarily exposed to other sick children.

Many doctors say that the first thing parents should do with a child who has a fever (temperature greater than 100.2) and is fussy is to treat the fever. Then the parents can watch how the child behaves ice the fever goes down.

Taking your child’s temperature is an important way to find out about your child’s health. However a child can have an acute infection even without a high fever.

You should not really only on a thermometer but on careful observation of your child. Nobody knows a child’s normal behavior better than the parents/caregivers. Any behavior that is out of the ordinary, or a change in your child’s appearance, could be a sign of an illness.

In particular, observe:

-Whether your child is crying, and how strongly

-How your child respond to attention when awake. If sleeping, how readily your child awakens.

-Whether your child’s skin is its normal color

-Whether your child is showing signs of dehydration )not enough fluid in the tissues)

-Monitor if your child is making fewer wet diapers, using the toilet less, doesn’t have tears when they cry, and the inside of their mouth looks dry instead of moist

Text Doctor Erica if they seem dehydrated. You received the number to text when you enrolled as her patient.