By Francesca L. Kritz
Consult Your Doctor
One night a few summers ago, when my 18-month-old daughter's mosquito bites
were making her itchy, cranky, and sleepless, I went to a 24-hour pharmacy to
buy antihistamine. It wasn't until I got home that I read the package
instructions: for children under 6, consult physician. By then it was after
10:00 p.m., and I didn't want to bother her doctor. So I guessed and gave Dina
a teaspoonful. As it turns out, the amount was right, but that...
“If your child looks very weak -- sick as they've ever been -- the parents need to call their doctor now,” says pediatrician Barton Schmitt, MD, who supervises the After Hours Call Center at the Children's Hospital in Aurora, Colo., which takes calls for 590 pediatricians every night. “Of those calls, 20% are sent to the ER, 30% need to be seen the next day in the office, and half can be safely cared for at home," Schmitt says.
Some parents may worry that their instinct to head to the ER or urgent care clinic after the pediatrician's office is closed will be questioned by the doctor on call if nothing serious turns up, but it's generally wise to trust your gut feeling.
“Some parents think they shouldn't go to the hospital because they'll be ridiculed, but there's nothing wrong with an ER visit that results in nothing but reassurance,” says Alfred Sacchetti, MD, chief of emergency medicine at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center in Camden, N.J., and spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians. “If something happened, you wouldn't have been able to live with it.”
Here are common childhood symptoms that may warrant a visit to the doctor's office, 24-hour walk-in clinic, or emergency room. If you have a baby under the age of 1, check WebMD's article on when to take a baby to the doctor or ER, because the criteria are different for babies than for older kids. However, with kids of any age, don't hesitate to ask a health care professional when you're in doubt.
High Fever in a Child Older Than 1
If your child is flushed and hot, your first instinct may be to see a doctor as quickly as possible, but this may not always be necessary.