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.
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.
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.