As parents, your children’s well-being is one of your top priorities. Because children’s bodies are still building a strong immune system, they may be ill often and visits to the doctor become a regular part of your routine.
If your child is suffering from a severe or serious illness, your concern may be coupled with a feeling of helplessness that cannot be described in words.
Minor health problems, such as a skinned knee, sneezing and coughing, or a mild fever are not cause for concern and you may not need to bring your child to the doctor. But sometimes it’s difficult to judge which signs and symptoms warrant a call to the doctor.
This is why it is important for you to learn about health symptoms that need to be evaluated by a doctor before it escalates into something more serious.
Here are 10 children’s health symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.
1. High Fever
Children often run a fever due to illnesses like stomach viruses and minor infections. But a high fever can indicate a more serious illness or one that requires treatment.
For a baby between 3 and 6 months old, a high fever is considered to be anything above 101 degrees Fahrenheit. For children older than 6 months, a high fever is usually considered to be about 103 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
If your child’s fever persists for a couple of days or more, you should consult a doctor. If the fever is due to a bacterial infection, antibiotic treatment will likely be needed.
If your child is running a high fever accompanied by a headache so severe that he or she has a hard time keeping their eyes open, it is not a good sign. It can be a sign of meningitis, a serious illness that requires medical care.
Other illnesses, such as the flu and ear infections, can also cause a fever. Timely diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications and even death in children due to a high fever.
2. Extreme Thirst
If your child is suddenly asking for more water to drink, especially at night, you should immediately take your child to a doctor for evaluation.
Type 1 diabetes can occur in children under 20 years of age, and excessive thirst is one of the key signs of it.
The most common symptoms in children who have diabetes are polydipsia (excessive thirst), followed by polyuria (excessive urinating), tiredness, nocturia (urination at night) and weight loss, according to a 2014 study published in BMJ Open.
3. Breathing Difficulty
Babies grunt and groan from time to time, and rapid breathing is common in children when they have a fever. But if rapid breathing has become a part of your child’s daily life, it’s time to see a doctor.
Breathing difficulty, especially while playing or exercising, is cause for concern. If there is a distinct whistling sound during exhalation, it can be a clear sign of asthma. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Backention, 6.2 million children had asthma in 2015.
If breathing problems are accompanied by blue-tinged lips, it can be sign of bronchitis.
Even a minor breathing problem can take a toll on your child’s energy level and make him or her really sick. So, if you notice your child is having breathing difficulty, talk to your pediatrician right away.
4. Prolonged Abdominal Pain
Children often complain of stomach pain. Sometimes it’s real and sometimes it’s an excuse to get out of a day at school or avoid eating something they don’t like!
However, the problem should be taken seriously if the pain is severe and your child complains of it several times a week.
Also, take it seriously if the pain is on the lower right side and accompanied by feeling sick, vomiting, diarrhea and tenderness when touched. These can be signs of appendicitis, a painful swelling of the appendix that needs urgent medical attention.
5. Pain while Urinating
If your child complains of pain while urinating, it’s a sign that something is wrong. It can mean your child has a urinary tract infection (UTI).
A 2012 study published in the International Journal of Pediatrics reports that UTIs are common in children. If recurrent or severe, they can potentially cause renal scarring.
Infants who have a UTI may show symptoms like irritability, fever, vomiting and trouble feeding. Older children may complain of discomfort while peeing, an increased urge to urinate, foul-smelling urine and have a fever.
Pain during urination can also be caused due to irritation or some kind injury of the genitals. In girls, it can be due to vulvitis, an inflammation of the vulva that can occur due to taking bubble baths or using harsh soaps.
No matter what, call the doctor if your child has pain while urinating or can’t urinate.
6. Extreme Fatigue
The boundless energy of children keeps kids on the go and parents on their feet.
But if your child shows symptoms of fatigue or doesn’t seem to have the energy he or she usually does even after adequate rest, take it as a warning sign that something is wrong with your child.
There are several causes of extreme fatigue, including unhealthy eating habits, a sedentary lifestyle and lack of sleep. Serious causes can be anemia, malabsorption, depression, cardiac or kidney disease, allergies, a viral infection and certain types of immune disorders, even cancers.
It is important to see a doctor to find out the cause of your child’s fatigue and determine if any treatment is needed.
7. Excessive Vomiting
It is common for growing children to throw up. It can be due to coughing too hard, crying too hard, eating too much or from stomach problems.
But if your child can’t hold down even small quantities of fluids, it can lead to dehydration. Some signs of dehydration include decreased urine output, sunken eyes, extreme sleepiness, parched lips and crying without producing tears. Extreme dehydration can be very serious, but it can be treated by replenishing fluids through an IV.
Also, if your child is throwing up blood, call your doctor immediately to rule out a life-threatening condition like a blocked intestine.
In addition, if a fall is accompanied by vomiting, loss of consciousness or your child seems confused or disorientated, it can be a sign of a serious head injury. This is another set of symptoms that must be evaluated by a doctor.
8. Facial Swelling
Swelling of the face is a characteristic sign of a strong allergic reaction to something (mostly food allergies, poinsonous insect bites or stings), which could progress to life-threatening anaphylaxis. It is another health concern that requires medical attention for quick diagnosis and treatment.
Facial swelling in children includes puffiness, bloating or distention of the child’s face.
It can also be due to an infection. A 2006 study published in Radiographics reports that infections are the most common cause of facial swelling, and imaging is indicated if there is concern about an underlying abscess that might require drainage.
Other possible causes include hypothyroidism, mumps, nephrotic syndrome, facial trauma and an insect sting or bite, to name a few.
9. Blue Lips
If your baby’s lips have turned blue after eating a bowl of blueberries, blackberries or blue-colored candy, it is not a matter of concern. Even extreme cold temperatures can lead to a blue tinge in the lips.
But if your child’s lips are blue without a known trigger, it can be a sign of cyanosis. Cyanosis is caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood or lack of blood circulation.
Blue lips can also occur when a child has heart disease, pneumonia, asthma or a host of other more rare conditions causing breathing difficulty.
Since the causes of blue lips range from incredibly mild to incredibly severe, it’s important note accompanying symptoms as well and consult a doctor immediately.
10. Severe Rashes
Rashes are very common in children and are usually nothing to be concerned about.
But you should consult a doctor if you notice severe rashes on your child’s body that are accompanied by other symptoms like a fever, vomiting, wheezing, trouble swallowing, abdominal pain or difficulty breathing. This could be a sign of an anaphylactic reaction, a life-threatening condition.
If your child has a red rash that turns white when pressed and turns back to red when released, it can be due to sepsis or meningitis, both of which require medical care.