Most of the time your toddler is happy and healthy. But what do you do when they come down with the sniffles? Instead of spiraling into a panic, Dr. Andrew Garner, a general pediatrician at University Hospitals, offers advice on when it’s time to give the doc a call or head to the emergency room.
Persistent fever: If your child has flu-like symptoms with a persistent fever above 102 degrees, it’s time to go beyond chicken noodle soup and head to the doctor’s office. (Infants 3-months-old and younger with a persistent fever should be seen by a doctor right away.) “Fever itself is not likely to hurt your child,” explains Garner. “However, it’s the immune system’s response to something that could be potentially harmful.”
Lingering cough: Coughing in little kids is a reflex, usually to clear secretions from the chest, explains Garner. Like a fever, a cough is a symptom of an underlying problem. Your primary care doctor can help determine why the cough is overstaying its welcome and if professional help is needed to kick it out the door. “A lot of the time it’s post-nasal drip running down the throat, maybe caused by an ear infection,” he explains.
Petechiae rash: While many skin irritations result from dry skin or heat rash, keep an eye out for petechiae, little purple and red dots that don’t lighten when pressed. “A small, nonblanching rash could be a sign that your child is bleeding too easily,” warns Garner. Your primary care doctor can evaluate the rash to see if there is any harm.
Fast breathing: If your child’s breathing increases rapidly at rest but there’s no fever, you may want to give the ER a visit. “If your child is breathing fast and hard, they may require oxygen immediately,” warns Garner. While this may be a sign of pneumonia or other respiratory problems, don’t panic. A fever or nasal congestion could be the culprit, but better safe than sorry.
Dehydration: A glass of water may help cracked lips, but when vomiting, diarrhea, loss of urination and rapid resting heartbeat occur, your child is severely dehydrated. “Your child will immediately benefit from IV treatment at the hospital,” explains Garner. Although the hospital may seem intimidating, it can offer quick treatment that your primary care doctor is unable to provide.