Vomiting, diarrhea, and fever can lead to dehydration, especially in
Keep track of how much a sick child is drinking and urinating.
A young child or infant should urinate at least every 6 hours.
An older child should urinate at least 3 times every 24 hours.
Call your doctor immediately if your child is dehydrated. Symptoms include
dry mouth, dry lips, dry skin, no tears, dark colored urine, weight loss,
decreased energy, or a sunken soft spot on an infant's head.
What symptoms need medical attention? Changes in your child's behavior, changes in his activity level, or other
symptoms that worry you are reasons to call the doctor.
Changes in color (paleness or bluish color around the lips, face, or nails;
yellowish skin or eyes)
Body becomes unusually floppy or stiff
One or both eyes are pink, red, swollen, or leaking sticky fluid
Navel is red or tender
White patches in the mouth
Difficulty breathing, swallowing, nursing, eating, or speaking
Blood in the stools or vomit
Crying for a long time, child can't be comforted
Refusal to eat
Unusually cranky or tired
Chills that make the body shake
Loses consciousness for a period (child faints, has a seizure, etc.)
Nasal fluid is strange color, smells bad, or is bloody
Blood or fluid coming out of the mouth or ears
Changes in vision, eyes are hurt by light
Stiffness or pain in the neck
Severe sore throat, uncontrolled drooling
Severe cough, cough that brings up blood, cough that lasts a long time
Very bad stomach pain
Pain in the back, pain with urination, frequent urination
Urine that is a strange color, smells bad, or is very dark
Pain, redness, or swelling around a joint, not caused by injury
Cut or scrape that appears infected (red, oozes pus, tender, swollen, hot)
What if I'm not sure?
When in doubt, it's best to call the doctor.
You know your child best. If he has symptoms or behavior that worries you,
call the doctor.
Call any time you have questions about his condition or treatment.
Be prepared to tell the doctor about your child's symptoms and behavior.
Call if your child is not acting like himself. Changes in his behavior or
activity level could indicate a problem.
Your child should stay home from school or daycare if he is contagious.
He should stay home if he needs one-on-one attention from an adult or frequent
He should stay home is he feels too ill to learn or play.
If your child says he is sick but does not appear sick, consider other problems.
Is there a problem at school with teachers or friends? Is there a reason he
wants to stay home?
Read about abdominal pain if your child
often complains of stomachaches.
How can I prepare for sick days?
Think ahead. What will you do if your child is sick and you have to go to
work? Who can take care of him?
Make arrangements ahead of time. A friend or relative might be able to help.
Older children may be able to stay home alone. Can he make his own meals?
Handle emergencies? Talk about guidelines for taking medicine. Teach him stranger
safety, such as how to answer the phone or answer the door when he is home
alone. Set up plans to check-in every couple hours. Let him know where you
can be reached.
Other people should know not to expect your child or worry about his absence.
Call his school, child-care, car pool, after school activities, lessons, etc.
What can my child do on sick days?
If you stay home with your child, keep an eye on his symptoms. Call the
doctor if you are concerned.
Having your child rest and giving fluids is usually best.
Use the time at home to have a special day with your child.
Children often enjoy napping in a parent's bed or having a picnic in front
of the TV.
Your child might enjoy a special treat. Popsicles and clear soda might help
Read to your child while he rests in bed. Do low-energy activities such
as puzzles, board games, coloring, or building blocks.
Ask friends and relatives to give your child a special telephone call.
Give your child extra attention and affection.
Some minor illnesses, conditions, and injuries can be treated at home. If
symptoms are severe, or if they worsen or persist, call the doctor.
Changes in your child's behavior, changes in his activity level, or other
worrisome symptoms are reason to call the doctor.
Call the doctor any time you have questions about your child's condition
Make arrangements for sick days ahead of time. Who can take care of your
child if you have to go to work? Who needs to know that your child is home
If you stay home, use the time to have a special day with your child.
InteliHealth. Call the Pediatrician? Harvard Medical School. 2001 August
07 (cited 2002 March 18). URL: http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH?t=21245&p=~br,IHW|~st,9103|~r,WSIHW000|~b,*|
MayoClinic. Caring for a Sick Child at Home: Be Prepared for Short-term
Illnesses. 2001 June 22 (cited 2002 March 18). URL: http://www.mayoclinic.com/findinformation/conditioncenters/invoke.cfm?objectid=A5C13164-B9FB-4A34-A356EA1150CC2108
Rutherford, K. When to Call Your Child's Doctor. KidsHealth. 2001 October
(cited 2002 March 18). URL: http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/general/body/call_doc.html
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