Q: How can I tell the difference between a simple cold and something more serious?
A: Most simple colds cause symptoms like a runny nose (with thick green or yellow mucus), congestion, sneezing, sore throat, swollen glands, and coughs, which can be similar to signs of more serious illnesses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or pneumonia. So the best thing you can do is look at your child's overall condition -- does she seem happy and reasonably playful? Is she eating and breathing well? -- and call your pediatrician if you notice any of the following:
For birth to 6 months:
- Call the doctor if your baby is 3 months or younger and has a fever of 100.4 F. or higher. - Call the doctor if your baby is between 3 and 6 months and has a fever of 101 F. or higher. - Go right to the doctor (or ER if it's after hours) if your baby has a fever of any kind and also appears unwell (i.e., is lethargic, develops an unusual rash, is not eating, has decreased urine output, is breathing fast, or has trouble breathing).
For 6 months and older:
- Call the doctor if your baby has a fever of 103 F. or higher. - Call the doctor if your baby has a fever of 100.4 F. or higher that lasts for three days or longer, develops a concerning rash, or has nasal discharge that lasts longer than two weeks. - Call the doctor if your baby has a fever that goes away and then comes back.
Regardless of your baby's age, you should call the doctor for the following symptoms, which can be signs of a more serious viral or bacterial infection:
- Vomiting or decreased urine output - Drainage from one or both ears - Eyes that are painful, pink, red, swollen, or leaking fluid - Difficulty breathing, or fast breathing - Changes in behavior
Copyright 2009 Meredith Corporation.