The Panicky Parent's Guide to Kids' Health

Problems...Ummm, Down There

Scary symptom: You notice a lump in your baby boy's groin area.

You think: Could it be cancer?

It's probably just: A hydrocele -- a fluid-filled sac that surrounds the testicle. It's not a cause for alarm: In fact, 10 percent of baby boys are born with hydroceles and it usually goes away without treatment by age 1. Or your child may have a hernia, a protrusion of part of the intestine through a weak area in the wall of the abdomen and into the scrotum, which can occur during fetal development. (Girls can get a hernia in the groin area as well, though the problem is more common in boys.) A hernia feels soft, and you'll be able to push it back into the abdomen. Your child will need surgery, but there's no rush unless the area is extremely tender and red -- signs that the hernia is stuck.

The lump could also be an enlarged lymph node, especially if it's located where the leg and torso meet. "Lymph nodes are part of the immune system, so whenever your child has inflammation or an infection -- even from something seemingly minor like a cut or an insect bite -- they swell to protect the body," says Dr. Brown. When the infection clears up, the lump will also disappear.

When to worry: If the lump is rock-hard and immovable, it may be a tumor, though don't start freaking out: Cancer in a baby's groin area is rare. Leukemia also causes lymph nodes in the groin area to swell, but you'd also notice enlarged nodes in your child's neck and armpits, along with weight loss and paleness. Regardless of the cause, you should get any lump evaluated by your pediatrician.

Scary symptom: Your daughter says she constantly feels like she has to pee.

You think: She has diabetes!

It's probably just: Vaginitis, caused by overzealous or improper wiping. When the skin around the vagina is irritated, urination is painful. "Your daughter may only pee a little at a time because it hurts," explains Dr. Brown. "Her bladder is always full, so she always has to go." To soothe the skin, have your child sit in a warm bath. Coat the area around the vagina with petroleum jelly to create a protective barrier, which makes urinating more comfortable.

Urinary-tract infections can also trigger constant peeing. Check for symptoms such as a fever, painful urination, peeing in small amounts, and concentrated urine that smells foul. The common causes: bad wiping habits and holding it in. See your pediatrician, who can prescribe antibiotics to kill off the bacteria.

When to worry: If your child pees a lot -- and is losing weight, always tired, and excessively thirsty -- she may have Type 1 (also known as juvenile) diabetes. "When a child with Type 1 diabetes pees, it's not painful but there's a lot of urine, and it's almost colorless," says Dr. Haller. If your child has these symptoms, see your pediatrician for a screening.

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