When you become a parent, you earn a medical merit badge of sorts. Whether you’re sopping up a goopy nose or extracting a dangling-by-a-thread baby tooth, eventually few things faze you. But sometimes it’s tough to tell what warrants a call to your doctor’s office: Which temperature actually classifies as a “high fever”? What kind of tummy ache means your child has more than your average stomach bug? And when something truly frightening happens — say, your child suddenly breaks out in hives — should you call your pediatrician or head straight to the E.R.?
“Parents should always err on the side of caution and seek immediate medical care when they’re worried about something,” says Anita Chandra-Puri, M.D., a pediatrician at Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group, in Chicago, and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, to give you more specific guidelines to follow, we talked to top pediatricians about the 12 symptoms that always require medical attention.
- A fever that’s 100.4?F or higher in a baby younger than 3 months; higher than 101?F in a baby 3 to 6 months; or higher than 103?F in a child 6 months to 2 years
- A fever that doesn’t go down with treatment, or that lasts more than five days
- A fever that’s accompanied by a stiff neck or headache or a rash that’s either bruise-like or looks like tiny red dots
- A rash that resembles a bull’s-eye or consists of tiny red dots that don’t disappear when you press the skin, or excessive bruising
- A mole that’s new or changing
- Stomach pain that’s on the lower right side, or that’s sudden and crampy and comes and goes
- A headache that occurs in the early morning or wakes her up in the middle of the night, or that’s accompanied by vomiting
- Dry mouth and lips, decreased urination, a flat fontanelle (in an infant), dry skin or skin that stays bunched when you pinch it, or excessive vomiting or diarrhea
- Blueness or discoloration around the mouth; labored breathing where you can see your child sucking in his chest and abdomen; or panting, grunting, or a whistling sound when breathing
- Swollen tongue, lips, or eyes, especially when accompanied by vomiting or itchiness
- A fall when your child is less than 6 months old, or has obvious neurological changes like confusion or loss of consciousness, or that causes vomiting and/or any damage to the body, such as broken bones
- A cut that gapes open widely enough that you could stick a cotton swab in it, or that doesn’t stop bleeding within a few minutes of applied pressure
If you see any of these symptoms and want to know more about what they could mean and why you should call your doctor, please go to the Parents.com web site.