When to Call the Pediatrician
But there are times you should call your pediatrician if your child has a fever:
Your baby is under the age of 2 or 3 months. Get in touch with the doctor if he has any fever at all, even a temperature as low as 100.4 degrees.
"Because they have a less-mature immune system, an infection in a child that young can be a sign of something more serious," such as bacterial meningitis or pneumonia, Mendelson says.
Your baby is older than 3 months and also has other symptoms. If he's weak or vomiting in addition to a high temperature, check with the pediatrician. Same goes if his fever lasts for more than 3 days, Mendelson says.
Your child has a high fever. The American Academy of Pediatrics says to call your pediatrician right away if your child's temperature repeatedly goes above 104 degrees. That's especially important if he has other symptoms, such as a rash, trouble breathing, difficulty waking, persistent vomiting, or diarrhea.
When you do call your doctor, be prepared to answer these questions:
- What's your child's temperature?
- When did you last take it?
- How long has he had the fever?
- Does he have any other symptoms?
Vomiting or Diarrhea
If it's a single episode, there's no need to worry. If either persists, though, then dehydration becomes a concern, says Ashanti W. Woods, MD, attending pediatrician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
"To prevent dehydration, be sure to give him fluids regularly," he says.
Call your pediatrician if your child's symptoms become more severe or last for more than a few hours.
Also call if he can't keep fluids down and shows signs of dehydration. Your pediatrician will examine him and may order blood and urine tests or X-rays to make a diagnosis. If your child looks sick, the symptoms aren't improving with time, or the doctor suspects a bacterial infection, he may take a stool sample and send it to a lab to get tested.
Coughs, Colds, and Other Respiratory Problems
Older children with a cold usually don't need to see the doctor. If your baby is 3 months or younger, though, you should call your pediatrician at the first sign of illness, since colds can quickly turn into something more serious -- like bronchiolitis, croup, or pneumonia.
When your child is older than 3 months, call the pediatrician if:
- He's having trouble breathing.
- He's got a stuffy nose for more than 10 days or a cough that lasts more than a week.
- His ear hurts.