Every parent of a newborn infant, toddler or older child is faced at one time or another with a common medical dilemma: “Should I seek immediate care for my sick child, or can I wait?” The following three categories contain symptoms which should be acted on promptly and cannot be ignored:
1) Uncontrolled fever. This refers to a fever of 104F or higher not reduced by at least two degrees with the weight-appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen (approx 5mg/pound of child’s weight). However, ANY fever (100.4F or higher) in a child under three months of age needs immediate medical attention.
2) Respiratory distress. Signs of respiratory difficulty include fast breathing, retractions (ribs showing when breathing), abdominal breathing, head bobbing with each breath, grunting when exhaling and nasal flaring. Turning a pasty color or blue is a sign that respiratory failure is imminent.
3) Dehydration. Poor feeding (especially in a newborn or infant), lethargy, crying without tears, a sunken soft spot on the top of the head, no saliva and few or absent wet diapers indicate significant dehydration, which can lead to circulatory collapse.
While there are obvious conditions such as seizures and traumatic injuries that necessitate immediate medical care, the above categories contain symptoms that may be hard to detect, especially in the early stages. It is therefore imperative that each parent, grandparent or guardian recognize these warning signs and take prompt medical action.