One of the things that I found difficult during my early parenting years was trying to figure out when my child should see a doctor. Were they sick, slightly sick, or really sick? I admit that I ran to the doctor quite a bit with my first child. Some of these visits were not necessary, but I did learn a lot.
I personally feel that it’s best to err on the side of caution. If you aren’t sure, it’s best to check. Many doctor’s offices have a nurse consult option available. With this option, you can call in and describe your child’s symptoms. The nurse should be able to tell you whether or not you should bring your child in to the doctor’s office for a visit. Some insurance companies also have a nurse consult option. Check to see if your provider offers this option.
Suppose your insurance company doesn’t have this option and suppose your doctor doesn’t have a option for a nurse consult? Then you’ll have to use your judgement.
If you have an infant, you want to watch for signs of distress such as excessive crying and screaming. If your child sleeps too much, is not interested in eating, or if your child sleeps through meals, you need to call the doctor immediately. Some children pull at their ears if they have an ear infection; others pull their ears because they just like to pull their ears! It’s best to check it out though.
Some children run fevers quite easily and others rarely run fevers even if they are quite sick. If your child has a fever or if he doesn’t “look right” even if he’s not running a fever, I’d suggest calling the doctor to schedule an appointment. Again, it’s best to err on the side of caution, especially during the early months. If in doubt, call the doctor.
When your child becomes a toddler, he or she should have an established routine and will probably react in predictable ways to certain situations. For example, my son usually sleeps pretty well and loves to eat. He also is a very easy going child. When he began getting up several times during the night, I began to monitor him more closely.
Yesterday, he spent most of the day crying and refused to eat. Last night, he had trouble getting to sleep. Although he didn’t have a fever, I still decided to take him to the doctor this morning, mostly because his eyes were very red. He had a double ear infection and an eye infection. Changes like I witnessed in my son’s behavior and routine are usually signs that a child needs to see a doctor. Keep in mind that some children may not run a fever, even if they are very sick.
As your child ages, he should be able to vocalize if he’s in pain. Once a child is able to tell you that his ear hurts, his throat hurts, or his head hurts, life becomes much more simple. You no longer have to “guess” if your child is in pain or if he is sick. Once my daughter told me that her throat was sore and that it felt like it did when she had strep throat. I took her in to the doctor and she actually had strep throat again!
How do you know when to take your child to the doctor? Do you have tips to share with other parents? Please post!