When Should You Call the Pediatrician?

Which symptoms warrant a call to your child's doctor?

When a child gets sick, parents are understandably concerned. Many parents aren't sure whether or not to call the doctor when their child is showing signs of illness. Some symptoms can be harmless, but some need to be reported to a doctor immediately. Here's a list of symptoms that warrant a call to your child's pediatrician.

  • High fever
    -Any child less than 90 days old with a fever should be examined by a physician right away, to rule out a serious infection (unless there was a DPT shot in the previous 24 hours).
    -Children under 6 months of age with a fever should be examined by a physician within 24 hours.
    -Children under age 2 should be seen if the fever lasts more than 48 hours.
    -Children of any age who have a fever over 105 degrees should be seen immediately.
  • Chills that make the child shake all over.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Extreme sleepiness or unexplained lethargy.
  • Unusual excitement or hysterical crying.
  • Sudden weakness or paralysis of any part of the body.
  • Seizures (convulsions) or uncontrollable shaking of an arm or leg.
  • Severe headache.
  • Pain, heaviness, or stuffiness around the nose, eyes, or forehead.
  • Nasal fluid that is discolored, bad-smelling, or bloody.
  • Sudden hearing loss.
  • Earache.
  • Fluid discharge from the ear.
  • Sudden decrease in vision.
  • Eyes that are red, swollen, and watery.
  • Eyes that are extremely sensitive to light, especially if your child also has a fever, headache, or stiff neck.
  • A yellow color in the whites of the eyes or in the skin, especially with pain in the abdomen or dark or tea-colored urine.
  • Stiffness or pain in the neck, especially with fever or headache.
  • Severe sore throat, especially with trouble swallowing or speaking.
  • Uncontrolled drooling because of painful swallowing.
  • Difficulty breathing, especially with pale or bluish color of the lips or nails.
  • Unusually rapid breathing.
  • Severe or persistent cough, especially if it brings up bloody or discolored mucus.
  • Vomiting for 12 hours or more.
  • Vomiting of blood.
  • Intense or unusual abdominal pain.
  • Swollen or abnormally large abdomen.
  • Diarrhea that is streaked with blood or mucus.
  • Pain in the middle of the back, especially with fever or with discomfort while urinating.
  • Painful or unusually frequent urination.
  • Urine that is discolored, bloody, cloudy, or has an unusual smell.
  • Discharge from the penis.
  • Vaginal discharge that is thick and white, brown or discolored, or smells bad.
  • Pain, redness, or swelling of a joint that can't be explained by exercise or injury.
  • A cut or scrape that oozes pus or becomes hot, red, tender, or swollen A sudden rash, or sudden crop of blotches or blisters, especially over a large area of the body.

Source: American Medical Association; Alan Greene, MD

Reviewed 2/02 by Jane Forester, MD

Originally published in American Baby magazine, August 2001.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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