When to take a sick child to the doctor

Especially during cold and flu season, it can be difficult to determine when to leave home sick and when to visit your doctor or pediatrician. You should always seek professional help if you are concerned about your child's health or have a health-related question that has not been answered.

Get Medication Information / Brianna Gilmartin

Warning signs

A simple phone call to a nurse or a doctor's appointment can help calm you down if something doesn't feel right. However, you should seek medical attention if your child experiences:

  • High or persistent fever
  • Any breathing problems, such as fast, difficult, or noisy chest breathing.
  • Persistent pain, such as earache , sore throat , severe headache, or abdominal pain.
  • Thick discharge from the eyes that covers the eyelids and does not go away during the day.

Also, you may need to see your child for:

  • Frequent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Lack of fluid to urinate at least once every six to eight hours.
  • Dehydration (severe dehydration should be treated in the emergency room)
  • Bloody vomiting or diarrhea
  • Neck stiffness, extreme lack of energy, or illness seem to get worse (rather than stay the same) for more than four to five days.
  • Susceptibility to infectious diseases such as mononucleosis , influenza, chickenpox , or COVID-19.
  • Illness after a recent trip abroad
  • Urination problems, which may indicate an infection or sometimes diabetes .


It is important to pay attention to how the child behaves with the temperature. If they have a high fever but are playful and active, the illness may be less of a concern.

The temperature in children can reach different heights (some have a fever when they are sick, others rarely), so it is important to pay attention to how the child behaves, eats / drinks.

Newborns (less than 2 months old) require a screening test at any temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (F). In children 3 months to 1 year, a fever above 102 F is cause for concern .

In general, there is no established cut-off value for infant fever, but the symptoms associated with fever are very important. For example, rapid or labored breathing may indicate a serious illness in a child.


It is important for children 6 months and older to get a flu shot. Another option is the nasal spray flu vaccine, which can be used for children 2 years and older who do not have asthma.

Children under the age of 2 are at risk of being hospitalized due to complications from the flu, such as pneumonia. The vaccine protects them from serious complications and can prevent the spread of the flu among people with poor immune systems, such as infants or the elderly.

To reduce your child's anxiety during the vaccination, try a distraction such as singing or watching a video. Ask your doctor how to numb the area with a freeze spray, ice pack, or lidocaine cream, and make sure the cream has enough time to work.

Older children can also appreciate this if a parent has the opportunity with them.

Home care

Make sure your child is drinking enough fluids and at rest. Before giving your child any medication, be sure to talk with your doctor or pediatrician about the best treatment for your child's medical conditions.

You should not give medicine to young children that are for older children or adults. Dosage is important, so read labels carefully.

While schools and kindergartens may have their own rules, they generally require the following before a child can return to Wednesday:

  1. No fever above 100.4 in 24 hours
  2. No vomiting and / or diarrhea in 24 hours.
  3. With antibiotics for 24 hours, if applicable

If your child is uncomfortable, tired, or in severe pain, it is best to recover at home.

These symptoms should be kept at home until the doctor clears them:

  • High or persistent fever
  • Excessive fatigue
  • A rash that can be contagious.
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Frequent cough
  • Thick discharge from the eyes
  • Dehydration
  • Repeated bouts of vomiting or diarrhea.

You should also know the symptoms of COVID-19 in children and be familiar with the coronavirus policy at your school or health center.

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