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When To Take Your Child To The Doctor: Advice From a Registered Nurse and Mother of 2

Do you ever wonder when to take your child to the doctor? Not sure if their fever is high enough? Read for advice from Linda, a mom and nurse who’s been through it all.

As parents, we always want to make things better for our kids, and that’s especially true when your child is feeling sick. Uncertainty is common when illness strikes, and it can be downright confusing when it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and everyone is exhausted.

Linda’s son

I’ve been the mom who wants her highly active son to calm down for ten minutes, but when he isn’t acting like himself and is suddenly curled up on the couch spiking a fever? All I want in the world is for him to be better so he can get back to being his typical active self!

I’ve also run into those times when I was on the fence about whether to take my son or daughter in to see their pediatrician. As a registered nurse, here are a few helpful parameters to determine when to take your child to a doctor or healthcare professional:

First, as caregivers to our children, our primary responsibility is to advocate for their well being. Always and without hesitation, trust your parental instincts. Moms and dads, listen to your gut because you know your child best and understand their needs. When in doubt, it’s better to play it safe and make the trip to bring your child in to see a doctor or healthcare professional, even if it’s for a little parental peace of mind.

When it comes to fever, it’s important to know that in babies under three months, a rectal temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit warrants a prompt call to your pediatrician. If you cannot reach the doctor’s answering service, it’s advisable to bring your baby to urgent care or the emergency room. Infants under three months have not yet developed the ability to fight off infections effectively. They also don’t present with symptoms of infection like an adult. Their immune systems are immature, and it’s best to get them checked out.

If a fever persists longer than 24 hours in babies older than three months, if the fever is above 102 degrees Fahrenheit, or if you simply don’t like the way your baby looks or is acting, call your doctor or healthcare professional. Based on a few questions and the age of your child, your doctor may discuss fever-reducing medication, and they’ll offer any other recommendations (such as staying well hydrated).

Quick mom/nurse tip: Keep the phone number to your pediatrician on your mobile phone and in multiple places around your home so you can find it fast.

If your pediatrician advises fever-reducing medication, they will be very specific about the medication and which dosage is appropriate for your baby based on their age/weight. Your child’s behavior can also be a key indicator in determining whether medical attention is needed. A child can be quite sick with a low-grade temperature, while a baby with a higher fever could exhibiting their typical behavior. Let their action (or inaction) guide you.

Another quick mom/nurse tip: Don’t worry about “bothering” or upsetting your doctor. They are on-call, and you should never feel bad about advocating for your children.

Linda comforts her daughter suffering from a fever

Now when it comes to child vomiting, it’s important to keep a close watch because dehydration can be a concern – especially for babies. I’m not sure why this seems to always happen at night, but you’ll want to slowly introduce fluids and allow time for the little tummy to get back on track. If your child is still in diapers and severely vomiting, keep track of how many wet/dirty diaper changes they have. You’ll always want to call your doctor right away if your child becomes lethargic and weak.

As for saving ourselves as parents from our precious little germ carriers, hand-washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of illness and infection. Washing your hands before and after the cuddles and diaper changes can save you from experiencing the same illness or sharing the germs with other family members.

One last quick mom/nurse tip: Always check with your healthcare provider or doctor before administering any medication to children, including any over-the-counter medications. Parenthood is one wild ride, and it’s always best to ask questions to a qualified healthcare professional when a child is sick.

When it comes to sick kids, it’s hard to know whether you’re making the right call. Hopefully these tips will help clarify when to take your child to the doctor. The most important thing is to trust your instincts.

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