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Children's Health

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5 Serious Symptoms in Children to Never Ignore

What to keep in mind if your child gets a very high temperature or other worrisome symptoms.

Bad Headache

How can you tell whether your child's headache is serious enough to warrant immediate medical attention, or if letting her skip school and sleep it off would help?

“Minor headaches go away with over-the-counter pain relievers and/or rest,” Brown says. “Major headaches do not.”

If your child's headache endures for several hours -- or if the pain is so intense that she can't eat, play, or even enjoy her favorite TV show -- call the pediatrician.

“If it's severe enough to incapacitate the child, it needs to be evaluated now,” Schmitt says. “They cannot do any normal activities. All they can do is think about their pain.”

Headaches can be commonly caused by tight muscles in the scalp, rather than a problem related to the brain, but a headache with neurological symptoms (such as confusion, blurred vision, or trouble walking) should be evaluated by an emergency room doctor.

Headaches combined with fever, vomiting, confusion, rash, or stiff neck should also be evaluated quickly as the child could have a serious infection or illness, such as meningitis, which is a medical emergency.

If a child gets headaches often, that needs to be evaluated. Children generally should not get headaches.

Widespread Rash

Don't be too concerned about a rash on your child's arm or feet; they're generally harmless. If the rash covers her entire body, though, examine it to see whether you should get medical attention.

“If you touch the red rash and it blanches or turns white, then you let go and it turns red again, you usually don't have to worry about it,” Sacchetti says. “Most of the virus rashes and allergic reactions, including hives, will do that.”

A non-blanching rash -- small red or purple spots on the skin that don't change color when you press on them -- can indicate a medical emergency such as meningitis or sepsis, particularly when accompanied by a fever. This type of rash can also appear on the face after violent bouts of coughing or vomiting, so it's not always a sign of something serious, especially if it's just in one area.

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