As a parent, it can be tough to figure out what exactly is ailing your child. Maybe they don’t have the ability to effectively describe what they’re feeling or they’re showing symptoms you’ve never seen before. Should you call the doctor? Head to the ER? Wait it out?
To help ease your mind, here are five serious symptoms in children that either warrant a call to the doctor or urgent medical care.
Serious Symptom No. 1: Lethargy
Lethargy is more than just feeling sleepy. It’s when a child wants to do nothing but sleep or refuses to do anything but stay still. Keep in mind that sick children need more sleep than usual, but if it’s difficult to wake your child or keep him or her awake, that is a serious symptom.
If your child is awake, but you can’t get him or her to interact with you, sit up, walk around or play with you, that warrants a call to your doctor. Causes of lethargy can range from head injuries, infections, chemical imbalances, dehydration and exposure to toxins.
Serious Symptom No. 2: Trouble Breathing
While it seems like it would be easy to tell if someone is having trouble breathing, spotting the signs in a child can be a bit more difficult. According to Harvard Health, signs of breathing trouble in a child include:
- Retractions: This happens when a child is using extra muscles to help him or her breathe and looks like the muscles around the ribs and neck are being sucked in. To check your child for this, take off his or her shirt and watch the chest.
- Wheezing or squeaking: This is a concern if the sounds are constant and do not go away after coughing or spending time in a steamy environment.
- Breathing fast or the inability to talk: If your child cannot talk or your baby or toddler cannot drink, this often is a sign of breathlessness. To detect whether your child is breathing quickly, take off his or her shirt and watch his or her chest.
- Pale or blue color around the mouth and fingernails.
Serious Symptom No. 3: Irritability or Severe Pain
Most children are irritable if they are sick or uncomfortable. But can these symptoms be managed with extra TLC and medication? Also, minor discomforts that accompany an illness or injury often come and go. But if the pain is unrelenting or you’re unable to settle your child and he or she refuses to eat or drink, those are signs that need medical evaluation.
Serious Symptom No. 4: A Red or Purple Rash That Doesn’t Get Paler When Pressed
Rashes are common among most kids, and while most don’t require medical attention, one rash is a sign of serious problems. If your child has a red or purple rash that looks like little spots and doesn’t get paler when you press it, you should get your child evaluated immediately. This kind of rash doesn’t not get paler when pressed because the color and spots are caused by bleeding under the skin. It can be a result of serious infections or other emergent issues.
Serious Symptom No. 5: A High Fever that Doesn’t Respond to Medicine
When your child has a fever, it can be alarming — and it raises other questions. Should you give medicine? Is it an emergency? While it can be scary, a fever is the body’s natural response to infection, and instead of focusing on the number on the thermometer, focus on how your child is acting. It’s a good sign if he or she still seems like himself or herself.
However, if your child is under 3 months old and has a fever of 100.4 or higher, he or she should see a doctor quickly. If your child is older than 1 and has a fever of 104 or higher that doesn’t come down a few degrees with home treatment, or he or she is lethargic or is acting very sick, get to a doctor.
You know your child best, and if you’re concerned or have questions about symptoms he or she is displaying, call your doctor.