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When to call the doctor.

Your child is sick or just fell and bumped his head. You’re worried, but you don’t want to bother the doctor or nurse and turn to the internet instead. While the internet contains a wealth of information, it is not the most appropriate resource if you believe your child is really ill or injured. Doctors and Nurses are trained to ask the right questions and determine the most appropriate course of action, whether it’s a trip to the ER or watching and waiting at home. In many cases, your child’s healthcare provider may have access to their health history and medical records even after hours, thanks to the growing popularity of Electronic Medical Records. This can result in prompt care as well as ease a parent’s anxiety about their child’s condition. If you haven’t already done so, you should find out the after hours policy for your child’s provider. Some doctors use an answering service where nurses or other trained professionals will answer the phone and call the doctor, if necessary. Other providers will give an after hours cell-phone number or pager to contact them directly. Area hospitals may also provide Free 24 hour Consulting Nurse lines as a service to the community. In an earlier post, I also mentioned poison control as a great resource to have posted by the phone. You should collect any appropriate numbers and have them near a home phone or programmed into a cell phone for easy access. While I try to provide information in each of my topical posts about when to call or see a doctor, here is a list of common conditions for which you should consult your child’s healthcare provider immediately:

  1. Persistent Fever (lasting more than 3 days) or High Fever (above 104 degrees Fahrenheit), especially when combined with decreased appetite. This can indicate an infection that requires treatment and may also lead to dehydration, which can happen quickly in infants and young children.
  2. No urination in over 8 hours or extremely dark colored urine; No bowel movement in more than 4 days (unless your child’s healthcare provider has previously told you this was okay).
  3. Blood in urine, stool, or vomit.
  4. Head injury resulting in loss of consciousness or temporary disorientation.
  5. Any kind of animal bite or puncture wound.
  6. Persistent vomiting and/or diarrhea.
  7. Bloody nose that won’t stop bleeding.
  8. Lethargy (limp, unable to rouse or wake easily, eyes rolling in back of head).
  9. Weightloss of more than 10% of their body weight.
  10. Possible broken bone

If your child is having difficulty breathing, is unconscious, or has a severe injury (gash, wound, or obvious broken bone/joint dislocation), you should call 911 immediately and consult your child’s doctor later. For potential poisonings, call your local Poison Center: 1-800-222-1222

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One Response to “When to call the doctor.”

  • Cheryl Thorndike, PT:

    Great post! As a first aid provider for sport injuries, I thought it pertinent to remind parents and care-takers of the following (as it is a common theme in athletic injuries): Remember that a blow to the face or jaw, especially if it’s serious enough to cause a dental injury or black eye, counts as a head injury. Don’t forget to monitor for symptoms of altered consciousness for 12 to 24 hours after the incident and if the child doesn’t seem “right” don’t hesitate to contact a health care provider.

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