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Is it Time to Call the Doctor?

Runny noses, congestion and cough are so common in children; it’s often hard to know when they could be symptoms of something more serious. And while illnesses are prevalent during winter, parents generally have questions year-round about when to call the doctor.

It’s important to remember that parents know their child best. Trust your instincts, and if you’re concerned that home remedies aren’t helping your child feel better, don’t hesitate to call your doctor. Additionally, when illnesses strike, there are some specific symptoms that warrant contacting a physician:

  • Fever
    • Infants under three months: call the doctor for fever higher than 100.3 degrees
    • Babies older than three months: consult a physician if the low-grade fever lasts for more than three days or if the child is irritable, inconsolable, not eating or has less than four wet diapers in 24 hours.
    • Children should see a doctor the same day for fevers higher than 104 degrees. If fever is accompanied by the inability to drink, confusion, rash, trouble breathing, constant crying or difficulty waking, call a doctor immediately.
  • Stomach/gastrointestinal issues
    • Call a doctor for: blood in your child’s stool or vomit; abdominal pain in one spot; recurrent/persistent stomach pain; jaundice/yellowing of skin/eyes; abdominal distension; stomach issues with fever; signs of dehydration (dry lips, infrequent urination, lethargy/weakness); severe vomiting; severe diarrhea (more than eight stools per day).
  • Cough
    • Contact your pediatrician for coughing that: is constant; is combined with wheezing, stridor, difficulty breathing, rapid or noisy breathing, or shortness of breath; causes vomiting; is painful; prevents sleep; or lasts for more than two weeks.
  • Colds
    • Check with your child’s doctor if a cold is accompanied by ear pain; fever that continues for more than three days; if there are signs of dehydration or if your child has trouble breathing.
  • Rash
    • Consult a doctor if your child is bothered by the rash; if it doesn’t improve in three days; if it’s associated with fever or if it looks like bruising and doesn’t lighten in color when pressed.
  • Weakness, lethargy or lack of energy
    • Call your doctor for advice.
Mary Brunner MD

Author of this Article

Mary Brunner, MD, specializes in pediatrics. She is a guest columnist located at IU Health Physicians Pediatrics, 1650 W. Oak St., Ste. 210, in Zionsville. She can be reached by calling the office at 317.873.8855.

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