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When Children Don't Feel Quite Right

As a parent, you can tell if your child is not behaving normally or feeling quite right. If you suspect something might be wrong, here are the signs and symptoms you should look for that might indicate an emergency.

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As a parent, you are the expert on your child and you are best equipped to notice if something just isn't right. You can usually tell if your child isn't behaving normally or if she just doesn't have her usual energy, mood or curiosity. Sometimes, you can just sense that something's not right. Perhaps, she's less active in other days or has a smaller appetite than normal. Maybe she's less talkative or complains about feeling yucky. If you're not sure what this might look like, click on the link called Tired or Fatigued Children and watch the video. Here is what you really have to know when something's just not right with the child and what to do about it. There are several signs to look out where when you should call your doctor or 911 immediately. Let me describe some of the most serious signs. One, if your child will not respond to any verbal commands or is acting in a bizarre manner, call 911 or get your child to the doctor at once. Two, if your child has a stiff neck and a fever of 101 or more, get him to the doctor right away. If you're not sure if your child has a stiff neck, click on the link called Testing For a Stiff Neck for a simple test. Three, if your child is not drinking or keeping down enough fluids or looks dehydrated, call the doctor. You can often tell if a child is getting dehydrated if they have dark circles under their eyes, if their lips and tongue are dry, their eyes are sunken in, they're making very few tears or if they're peeing less than usual. To get a better sense of what a dehydrated child looks like, click on the video link below called Dehydrated Children. Four, if you suspect that your child has swallowed something harmful such as medicine, a poisonous plant or a household cleaner, call the Poison Control Hotline at 1-800-222-1222 or 911 immediately. Five, if your child has unexplained pains or a bruise like rash, don't wait. Call the doctor. Six, if your child just seems to be continuing to get worse no matter what you do, contact the doctor immediately. Okay. If none of what I've just described matches how your child looks, you can relax a bit. It's probably not an emergency and, chances are, your child may just have an infection. Now, we can look at a couple of other more common signs and symptoms that your child might have to help us treat the condition. Take your child's temperature. Does he have a fever? Fever alone can often cause a child to be less active. If he does have a fever, you can give him a fever reducer such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, Tylenol or Advil or Motrin, to try to lower the temperature. Also, does your child have diarrhea or is he vomiting? Both of these symptoms can rapidly make a young child dehydrated. Click on the Library Section and look for the Home Treatment link to see how to make sure your child gets enough fluids. The most common cause for your child to not feel quite right is a viral infection such as the common cold. Be sure to let your child rest and continue to drink fluids even if he doesn't have an appetite for food. In all of these cases, continue to monitor your child's condition to make sure it doesn't get any worse. If it does, call your doctor immediately. If your child seems very uncomfortable or doesn't seem to get better after home treatment or you're just not sure what's going on, don't hesitate to call your doctor.