Should you call the doctor about your sick child?

Children get sick and injured quite often, yet not every illness needs a physician’s supervision or attention. If you know what to expect and how to administer basic care, you can treat your child from home, avoiding the germ-laden doctor’s waiting room. On the other hand, there are some serious symptoms that shouldn’t be overlooked and that require immediate attention. If you aren’t sure whether a visit to a doctor is called for, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.

Common childhood illnesses, such as fever, rashes, coughs, bruises and runny noses, can be treated with home remedies. It’s important to keep a stock of up-to-date first-aid equipment at home and in the car. Supplies, such as bandages, hydrocortisone cream, tweezers and a thermometer, are essential in treating children. Chicken soup is proven to alleviate respiratory infections, while humidifiers ease nasal congestion and honey is effective in relieving a cough (although not for children under a year old). In addition, pain medication, such as acetaminophen, may be given to children but only according to the recommended doses.

When a childhood illness lingers for longer than five days, or there are serious symptoms, such as an unexplained rash, severe head or abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, seizures, excessive bleeding, insufficient urine production, unrelenting diarrhea or difficulty sleeping, it’s important to get immediate medical attention. Other symptoms that require a doctor’s visit include a head injury that results in loss of consciousness, a severe reaction to an insect bite and an attack by an animal.

All parents, especially inexperienced new mothers and fathers, should be knowledgeable about the symptoms of dangerous diseases, such as meningitis, and they should be on the lookout for unusual behavior. Furthermore, if you follow the recommended vaccination schedule, you can be assured that your child will be protected from the major life-threatening viruses, such as polio, that once plagued children.