Serious Health Symptoms In Children People Should Never Ignore

Infancy and childhood is a vulnerable period of life as immune systems are still weak and maturing. Certain problems that can be treated at home in… Simi - May 22, 2018

Infancy and childhood is a vulnerable period of life as immune systems are still weak and maturing. Certain problems that can be treated at home in adolescents and adults need to be treated by a doctor for children and babies.

Illnesses can present themselves in a variety of ways. Some symptoms can be completely normal in children and no need for concern, while some are red-flags signaling a larger issue. Unfortunately, infants and small children are yet to develop the vocabulary to tell us how they feel. And so, it is up to us to look out for any signs of them being unwell.

When you took your newborn baby home for the first time, no one gave you a handbook on how to take care of her. What if she falls sick? Will you see the signs? Are you blowing the signs out of proportion because you’re a nervous, newbie mother? How will you know if she needs a doctor? Why has no one invented a way to read babies’ minds? All these questions tend to flow through a parent’s head at the first sign of their baby being unwell. Unfortunately, the questions and confusion continue until they are adults, and even then you worry.

Child suffering from high temperature. Image via Freepik

Thus, it is helpful to know what symptoms to check for in your children and when medical treatment is necessary.  Once you know what to look out for, you will feel more confident about when to make that call.

1. High Fever

A high fever in your child can be alarming, but in an otherwise healthy child, it’s often nothing to panic about. A fever is the body’s healthy reaction to an infection and shows that the body is working the way it should.

Common illnesses like minor viral infections and stomach bugs can cause high fever in children; however, a high fever can sometimes also indicate a more serious illness. Meningitis, for example, will cause a high fever accompanied by a headache. Other features that suggest your child may have a dangerous fever, is if they’re aged 3-6 months, have dry mouth, pale skin, and is difficult to wake up. Reduced wet nappies and poor feeding in babies are also indications of a dangerous fever.

Mother with sick son. Image via Freepik

 If your baby is between 3 and 6 months old, a fever above 101 degrees Fahrenheit would be considered high. While a fever 103 degrees Fahrenheit or above is usually seen as high in children older than 6 months. If your child’s fever is persistent and lasts for more than 24 hours, you should consult a doctor. If your child is at special risk for serious infections then you should seek medical attention immediately. This includes children who have not received their routine immunizations, or have immune or blood disorders.

If medical care is unavailable at the moment, try sponging or bathing your child with lukewarm water, which may help reduce their fever. Do not use cold water or alcohol. Although you are worried, it is important that you do not administer any medicine to them that you have not discussed first with the doctor or nurse. Some medications we use on ourselves may not be suitable for them. For instance, aspirin puts children under 18 at risk of developing Reye’s syndrome, a dangerous brain disease.

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2. Breathing Difficulty

Grunts and groans from babies are common, and rapid breathing in children with a fever is also common. But, breathing difficulties that have become part of their daily life, and that appear especially during play or exercise, is cause for concern.

Breathing troubles accompanied by a distinct whistling sound when exhaling can be a clear indication of asthma. Babies and smaller children are unlikely to develop asthma, as the risk of asthma increases with age. A hacking cough may be the only mild asthma symptom in babies and small children. Shortness of breath and wheezing at nighttime or after exercise may be symptoms of asthma worsening. Children that make a high-pitched sound when breathing or need to use their abdominal muscles, chest, and neck muscles in order to breathe, may have severe asthma.

Woman with son doing inhalation. Image via Freepik

Infections of the throat, sinuses, and nose (upper respiratory tract infections) are also a common cause of breathing difficulties. Children are more likely to be affected as they are not yet immune to the viruses that cause these infections. Other symptoms that may appear, include coughing, a fever, aches, and a runny or stuffy nose that forces them to breathe through their mouth. While, lower respiratory tract infections, will affect the lungs and main airways of your child, but are less common. Besides rapid, shallow breathing, other symptoms may include coughing, grunting, wheezing, and problems with drinking and feeding. A child with a lower respiratory infection will more likely require a visit to a doctor to recover.

Besides allergies, asthma, and infection, another possible cause of respiratory issues in children might be the exposure to cigarette smoke, even during their prenatal development. Blockage of an airway by an inhaled object, like a small toy, torn balloon piece, or food, can also be the culprit.

Image via Freepik

3. Extreme Fatigue

Children have boundless energy that keeps them on the go but tends to leave adults fatigued. But, if your child is consistently tired or does not have the energy they usually do, even after adequate rest, there could be something wrong. There are several common causes of fatigue in children that can be solved with a simple lifestyle change. These include unhealthy eating habits, not enough sleep at night (less than 10 hours), a busy schedule, and a sedentary lifestyle.

There are just as many serious causes, however. These include immune disorders, anemia, kidney or cardiac disease, and allergies. Most acute illnesses, like upper respiratory infections or sinus infections, can also make children tired. The tiredness should leave once the illness goes away. If your child is consistently tired despite lifestyle changes and recovery from infection, it is helpful to see a pediatrician in case there is an underlying problem.

Image via Freepik

Significant tiredness can also be indicative of mononucleosis (“mono”), caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Fatigue is actually the most common and prominent symptom of the illness. Kids with mono tend to experience three to five days of mild symptoms, like a headache, fatigue, and malaise. A severe sore throat, fever, and swollen neck glands can follow.

Your child’s tiredness may also be the result of an educational, social, or emotional problem. Often times we as a society forget that internal health problems are as prevalent as those that manifest externally. If your child returns from school exhausted to the point of having to sleep in the middle of the day, but have plenty of energy during holidays and the weekend, their fatigue may be caused by a learning impairment. Processing information while reading, writing, learning, can exhaust the energy supply of dyslexic children.

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4. Pain While Passing Urine

The International Journal of Pediatrics published a study in 2012 that reports UTI’s are common in children. In fact, they are the second most common infection in kids. Unfortunately, younger children may not be able to explain the pain to you, while older children may feel embarrassed to mention it.

If your child doesn’t necessarily complain about pain, but you find them trying to urinate more often than usual, this could be in an effort to soothe the pain. Symptoms of a UTI (urinary tract infection) vary depending on age. Infants with a UTI, for example, may show symptoms like vomiting, fever, trouble feeding, and irritability. Older kids may experience discomfort while urinating, an increased need to urinate, fever and potent or bad-smelling urine. It is important to recognize and treat a UTI as soon as possible because if they are severe or recurrent they can lead to renal scarring.

Image via Freepik

Pain while peeing may also be caused by injury or irritation of the genitals. In boys, pain when passing urine may be caused by meatitis, which refers to redness at the opening of the penis. It often occurs in boys who are circumcised. While, boys who are uncircumcised who experience pain may have a foreskin infection, that causes tender and red foreskin. A urethral injury may also be the cause of painful urination and even bloody urine.

In girls, the pain can be due to vulvitis, an inflammation of the vulva that can be brought on by a soapy washcloth, harsh soaps or bubble baths. Vaginal itching or redness can also occur with soap vulvitis. But, regardless of the cause, consulting a pediatrician is necessary if your child finds urination painful.

Image via Freepik

5. Prolonged Abdominal Pain

Complaints of abdominal pain are reportedly more common in children under 11 years and are often a result of dietary changes and bowel habits. Stomach pain might be the most popular excuse for trying to miss school or avoid eating something they don’t particularly like. However, their complaints should be taken seriously if it is clearly causing them pain that is severe or frequent.

If the pain is located on their lower right side of their abdomen and is accompanied by diarrhea, vomiting, and tenderness at the touch, can be a sign of appendicitis. The first symptoms of appendicitis are often soreness around the belly button and a mild fever. The pain will worsen as it moves to the lower right side. If you place pressure on this side of your child and they experience a sharp pain, this is known as “rebound tenderness”, caused by the swelling of the appendix.

The abdominal pain. Image via Freepik

If all of a sudden, your child experiences stomach cramps with diarrhea or vomiting, they may have a tummy bug (gastroenteritis). This is caused by a bacterial or viral infection of the bowel and stomach, which is easy to treat. However, if there is a chance that their “tummy bug” has been caused by a food allergy, it is important to understand what the food is. Stomach trouble from allergies is normal in children, as most food allergies begin in childhood.

If your child has abdominal pain and there’s no decent explanation as to why they may have functional abdominal pain. It is a common cause of stomach complaints in childhood, especially in children between ages 5 and 6, and ages 9 and 10 (for girls). Experts are yet to pinpoint the cause, but believe it is triggered by stress that may come from moving or starting school. The pain usually clears up on its own.

Image via Shutterstock

6. Extreme Thirst

Diabetes is an illness often associated with the elderly or unfit, and rarely children. However, type 1 diabetes typically starts in childhood and can affect even the most healthy of children. If your child is drinking an obvious amount of extra water, especially in the night, you should consider having them evaluated by a doctor.

The most common and prevalent symptom in children with diabetes is excessive thirst followed by excessive urination at night. It is easy to look past your child’s extreme thirst, however, as most children will ask for and drink as much juice as they’re given, even when they’re not thirsty. For this reason, you should also look out for another type 1 diabetes signs, like unusual weight loss, tiredness, irritability, extreme hunger, and blurred vision.

 Thirsty child. Image via Freepik

Unexplained weight loss is an especially significant red flag symptom for type 1 diabetes. A pediatrician will suspect diabetes if your child displays classic symptoms of extreme thirst, frequent urination, and weight loss. Bear in mind that frequent urination in usually large amounts is associated with diabetes. If your child is thirsty and urinating frequently, but only in small amounts each time, there is a good chance diabetes is not the cause. Your child’s extreme thirst and frequent urination could be caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Among other reasons why your child is so thirsty, problems with their liver could be the cause. One particular liver disease that children can develop, is hepatitis. Symptoms that are likely to accompany extreme thirst, include yellowing of the eyes and skin, and abnormal stool color. Sickle cell anemia is another cause of extreme thirst that appears in children. Other symptoms include rapid breathing, sudden weakness, and pain the left side of the abdomen.

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7. Swelling in the Face

Facial swelling is the distension or bloating of the face due to inflammation or fluid buildup in the tissues of the face. Swelling may affect any region of the face and can extend to neck as well, but tends to be most obvious on the cheeks, lips, and eyelids. Facial swelling is a common problem in the pediatric population, and its origins can vary from infection to genetics.

One cause of facial swelling in children is sinusitis. This is a bacterial infection of the air-filled spaces within the bones in and around the nose. The infection causes inflammation of the spaces and results in swelling and pain around the cheekbones and the eyes. Sinusitis will not result in extreme facial swelling but is a common cause of the symptom in children.

Image via Shutterstock

Another common cause of facial swelling in children is conjunctivitis. Viruses are often the culprit of this infection, but bacteria, fungi, allergies, or contact lenses can also be triggers. A child with conjunctivitis will have an inflamed membrane lining their eyelids, causing noticeable swelling of this area. If your child is also complaining of itchy and sore eyes, it could be conjunctivitis.

If you don’t recognize any of these symptoms in your child, and their facial swelling is instead accompanied by swollen glands in the neck, it could be mumps. Mumps is a contagious viral infection that causes swelling on the sides of the neck and below the are lobe. Swelling of the salivary glands may also puff up the cheeks, resulting in pain in the area. Other reasons for facial swelling can be due to mild to serious allergic reactions, injury or trauma. There are numerous potential causes, so it is advised that you consult with a nurse or doctor before diagnosing your child’s condition.

Image via Shutterstock

8. Excessive Vomiting

It is not unusual for babies and children to vomit. In most cases, the vomiting will last up to two days and isn’t indicative of anything serious. Gastroenteritis, a bacterial or viral infection affecting the gut,  is the most common cause of vomiting in babies and children.  Vomiting from gastroenteritis (stomach flu) may also be accompanied by diarrhea, and these symptoms will usually disappear after a few days.

Persistent vomiting can, however, lead to severe dehydration and may even indicate a more serious problem, like meningitis. Babies and children younger than 5 years are at a higher risk of developing meningitis. Increased exposure to infections and immune system problems at birth put babies at an even higher risk. Meningitis refers to the inflammation of the membranes surrounding the spinal cord or the brain. It is crucial that the signs of meningitis be recognized as soon as possible because the condition is potentially life-threatening. Symptoms to look out for are usually vomiting, headache, rash, fever, and sensitivity to light.

Image via Shutterstock

If your child is throwing up blood, immediately seek medical help to rule out any life-threatening conditions, like a blocked intestine. If your child is vomiting after a fall and seems to lose consciousness and disoriented or confused, they may have a serious head injury. If your child experiences no other symptom besides vomiting, but it lasts longer than 2 days, is green or bloody, or is causing severe dehydration, consult your GP.

There are a variety of things can cause kids to vomit, but regardless of the cause, it is necessary to keep them hydrated. Children, especially infants, may not take in enough fluids to restore the water and nutrients lost from vomiting. Preventing dehydration is ket for their quick recovery.

Image via Derbyshire Times

9. Severe Rashes

Many childhood illnesses have bacterial or viral causes that cause a rash of some type to develop. As the medical community progresses and develops additional vaccines, there’s less chance of these diseases being a threat to your child’s long-term health. Nonetheless, any rash should be taken seriously and may require evaluation from a doctor.

You should seek medical attention if your child’s rash oozes or appears wet, spreads past the diaper area, doesn’t get better after two days, peels, or is more serious in skin creases. The same should be done if your child is younger than 6 months, is not feeding well, has hives, and has bruises without injury.

Image via Shutterstock

If your child’s rash is red but turns white when pressed and back to white when released, it can be due to meningitis or sepsis. Both of these conditions require medical care. While, an anaphylactic reaction may be the cause of your child’s rash if the rash is accompanied by vomiting, swelling, trouble swallowing and breathing, and stomach pain. Medical attention should be sought immediately.

Other common childhood illnesses with a rash as a primary symptom, are chickenpox and measles. Chickenpox often starts off as a very itchy rash, first appearing on the armpits, scalp, or groin area, before spreading over the whole body. The rash begins as a patch of redness with a small blister at the center, which bursts to form a crust. Measles, on the other hand, will cause your child to develop a red rash on their face by the fourth day of the illness, which lasts about a week. A white spotted rash may also develop on the cheeks. Although these conditions are likely not dangerous, do not administer medication to your child (especially aspirin) without medical advice first.

Child Blue lips. Image via Verywell Health

10. Blue Lips

Blue lips in children are often just an innocent side effect of something completely normal like some blue-colored candy or a bowl of blueberries. Even cold weather can lead to lips with a bluish tinge. So, before jumping to conclusions it is important to first rule out all the possible causes.

Firstly, are you able to wipe off the blue tinge from their lips? Secondly, is it cold outside or is your child wet? If your child’s body temperature rapidly decreases their lips can turn blue as the body tries to preserve its heat by reducing blood flow to the lips and skin. You should dry and warm your child immediately. If their skin feels numb after warming, they may have frostbite, in which case you must seek immediate medical attention. If your child’s lips have turned blue without a good explanation, it could be a symptom of something serious.

Child with Cyanosis. Image via BabyGaga

Cyanosis, for instance, is caused by too little oxygen in the blood or poor blood circulation and may suggest there are problems with your child’s heart or lungs. The condition causes the skin to change to a bluish-purple hue and is more obvious where the skin is thin. It is not easy to recognize cyanosis, and this is especially true in those with darker complexions. If you suspect cyanosis, compare your child’s lips, tongue, and fingernails to a family member who would normally have the same complexion as your child.

If your child’s blue lips are combined with other symptoms, particularly extreme lethargy, breathing problems, or neurologic problems, you should seek immediate medical support. The same should be done for a child who appears to be having a seizure and blue lips as a result, or who is unresponsive.

Autism spectrum disorder. Image via Shutterstock

11. Developmental Delays

Autism spectrum disorder appears in early childhood and infancy. Parents, doctors, and experts all have their own ideas on what causes autism, but, everyone agrees that early intervention helps. The symptoms of autism vary widely, with some children only experiencing mild impairments, while others have greater obstacles to overcome. But, their areas of difficulty typically involve relating and communicating with others, and flexible behavior and thinking.

This leads to delays in various basic areas of development, like learning to play, talk, and interact with others. However, it is important to acknowledge that every child develops at their own pace and that there is a wide range of what is considered “normal”.  Nevertheless, you should trust your instinct as their parent. If you feel your child is not meeting the milestones for their age, don’t wait to share your concerns with your child’s doctor. Act immediately.

Autism. Image via Shutterstock

Children with autism, are unlikely to just grow out of their problems, and their best chance for improvement in targeted treatment and additional help as early as possible. In fact, if autism is diagnosed in infancy, the proper treatment can take full advantage of the infant brain’s plasticity. Unfortunately, symptoms are more easy to diagnose after 24 months, as symptoms usually surface between 12 and 18 months only.

The earliest indications of autism can often be misinterpreted as the signs of a “good baby”, as the child may appear undemanding, independent, and quiet. Some autistic infants are unresponsive to cuddling, do not seek to be picked up, and make eye contact when feeding. Autistic infants may not have spoken any words by 16 months, follow gesture, respond to their name, show interest in playing, or prefers not to be touched or held. These are only a few of the many signs to educate yourself on if you are suspicious of your child being autistic.

Jaundice newborn. Image via Shutterstock

12. Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)

Jaundice is a common condition that affects over 50% of all newborns. Jaundice more often occurs in premature babies, and boys more than girls. Doctors will check your little one for jaundice before you take them home from the hospital, and then a few days later at their first checkup. It’s not easy to tell whether a child’s jaundice is normal or at a point where treatment is required, just from looking at them. So, if you notice your baby’s skin or the white part of your baby’s eyes appearing allow then take them back to the doctor.

In some jaundice cases, extra feeding can help rid your baby of it, but in other instances, your baby may need non-invasive medical treatment. This involves exposing your baby to special lights that remove bilirubin from their blood. Bilirubin is a yellow substance the body produces when replacing old red blood cells. The liver breaks down the substance so it can be excreted from the body in stool.

Image via Shutterstock

 In most cases, jaundice is mild and fades away without treatment. However, if severe jaundice is left untreated for too long, your baby is at risk of kernicterus, a type of brain damage.  Early signs of kernicterus can be poor feeding, floppy baby syndrome (low muscle tone), fatigue, and excessive jaundice.

Severe jaundice may occur is the infant has a condition that increases the number of red blood cells that need to be replaced. These conditions include abnormal blood cell shapes (sick cell anemia), infection, and lack of important enzyme proteins. factors that make the removal of bilirubin difficult, like certain medications, liver diseases (like hepatitis or cystic fibrosis), low oxygen levels, infections present at birth, may lead to kernicterus.

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13.  Nonstop Crying

Excessive, frequent crying in a baby who appears to be otherwise healthy, is the primary symptom of colic. This is a condition that affects up to 1 in 5 babies and typically begins in the first few weeks of a baby’s life. Colic normally stops by the time the baby is four months or old, or six months at the latest.

Taking care of a colicky baby is distressing and frustrating, but the condition will eventually pass and, most of the time, isn’t anything to worry about. Symptoms of colic include intense bouts of crying, and clenched fists, knees drawn to their stomach, or an arched back while crying. A colicky baby will also have a red and flushed face during their crying episodes.


Colicky baby Image via Wikipedia

There’s no set method that works for all colicky babies, but there a variety of techniques that might help. These include holding your baby when they cry, burping your baby after their feeding, bathing them in warm water, and gently rubbing their belly. If no methods help calm your baby down during these episodes and you’re struggling to cope, check in with your GP. They can check for any other possible causes of your baby’s crying.

Although your baby appears to be in distress, their outbursts are usually not harmful and will not affect their feeding and weight gain. So, if your baby isn’t feeding, you should consult your doctor. You should also get immediate medical help if your baby has a high-pitched, weak, or continuous cry has a seizure, seems floppy when picked up, has bloody stool, has blotchy or very pale skin, or has trouble breathing. These symptoms can indicate a more serious health issue.

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14. Cuts and scrapes

Cuts and scrapes are part of the territory when it comes to children. Most boo-boos will heal in no time, and there’s no need to panic every time one is acquired. The first priority should always be to manage the bleeding and make sure the cut is kept clean.

If you are unable to control the bleeding after half an hour, or if the cut is gaping, take your child to a medical center right away. A physician will give your child stitches if necessary, and also make sure the wound is cleaned. It is also important to notify your doctor if you notice redness, swelling, discharge, or inflammation around the wound. If your child is feverish, lethargic, or experiencing excessive pain, take them to a doctor to rule out infection and sepsis.

Sepsis. Image via Shutterstock

Sepsis is a serious medical condition that is brought on when the body attacks its own tissues and organs as an immune response to bacteria in the bloodstream. A cut should never affect a child’s general wellbeing. So, if you notice that they feel sick, have a fever, or are less alert than normal, get immediate medical care. Early diagnosis and treatment of sepsis can be life-saving.

Sepsis affects all ages but tends to strike the very old and very young. Children, mainly infants, are more susceptible to sepsis. Over 75000  infants and children have severe sepsis each year in the United States. Almost 7000 of these cases lead to death – more than the number of child deaths from cancer. Thus, it is crucial for early detection and treatment. One or more of the following symptoms accompanying your child’s injury may be a sign of sepsis: decreased urination, breathing difficulties, chills, low body temperature, and patches of discolored skin.

Image via Spectrum Health Beat

15. Lack of Interest in School

You might be a bit suspicious of this final point, as most kids aren’t particularly fond of school. In fact, some may even look up this blog and pretend to have all 14 symptoms to avoid school. But, sometimes a lack of interest in school can suggest something more serious than laziness. This especially the cases in younger children, who usually enjoy school.

If your child is not interested in going to school, is not eating or sleeping like normal, they might be struggling to focus in school due to a learning disability. A child who has no interest in school, and feels excessive fatigue after a school day, may be struggling with dyslexia. This is a specific learning disability in reading. Dyslexia children struggle with being fluent and accurate when they read. Spelling, writing, and reading comprehension are also affected. A dyslexic child may find school tiring, or their teachers may be unsympathetic, making them want to avoid the situation entirely.

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Attention-deficit disorder (ADD) and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are both common in children. These conditions can affect their ability to stay focused on activities like schoolwork. The difference between ADD and ADHD is that ADHD kids are hyperactive. Their hyper activeness coupled with attention difficulties may result in a negative relationship between them and a teacher who is not aware of the problem. Attention disorders are serious and are often misdiagnosed in children. Thus, it is important to get more than one opinion on whether your child has ADD or ADHD.

Another potential reason for your child’s sudden disinterest in school could be bullying. It is important to encourage your child to be open with you about social issues in school as these can lead to their physical and/or emotional harm.