Q. I’ve tried to be a calm mother and not rush into the pediatrician’s office for every sniffle. Lately, with so much in the news about enterovirus and Ebola, I feel a little paranoid and have started questioning my own judgment. Do you have a simple guideline about when it is appropriate to see the doctor and when it is okay to wait it out?
A. Every parent regularly faces decisions about their children’s health. One of the most difficult is when to see the doctor. Considering that children average 6-8 upper respiratory infections and 2-3 gastrointestinal infections per year, visiting the doctor for every ailment is just not practical.
The following guidelines apply to children 6 months and older. For younger infants, it is best to contact your child’s health care provider for more specific guidance.
Seek medical care for:
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• Lasting longer than three days.
• Associated with irritability, lethargy, limping, rash or joint pain.
• Accompanying a severe sore throat, abdominal pain or stiff neck.
• If there is an underlying respiratory problem such as asthma.
• If the cough disrupts sleep, affects activity level or lasts longer than a week.
• If there’s an associated wheezing, whistling noise, grunting or rapid breathing.
Vomiting and diarrhea:
• If vomiting lasts longer than the first 24 hours.
• If a child is not urinating at least every 6 hours or appears listless.
• If a child is unable to keep down sips of liquids after the first 12 hours of illness or unwilling to eat or drink once the vomiting has stopped.
• If there is associated abdominal pain and fever.
• If the vomit is dark green or bloody or the diarrhea is bloody.
If in doubt, it is always best to take the safest route and contact your child’s health care provider.