How do I know when it's time to call the doctor?
Real Mom Problem
“When you take your kids to the doctor, do you take them as soon as they start running a fever or get sick? Do you wait a few days to see if it will pass? Are there certain things you don't bother going to the doctor over, or is every sniffle treated like a medical emergency?”
- 1. Fevers in children can be alarming, but don't require medical attention if under 104 degrees
- 2. Viral infections, such as colds, cannot be treated with antibiotics so there's little a doctor could do to help
- 3. You know your child better than anyone. If you're concerned, it's best to take your child to the doctor, just in case
- 4. Call 911 if your child: Has a fever and is limp or unresponsive, is having trouble breathing, is vomiting and has a headache or a stiff neck, has blue lips or skin, has a seizure
Real Mom Solutions
As moms, we hate to see our kids sick. But how do we know if jammies and soup will do the trick or if it's something more doctor-worthy? Let the experienced moms of CafeMom help you tell the difference!
Some Moms Wait & See
I wait for a minimum of a week for routine illnesses. I know, people will screech "A week?" I'm a NICU nurse - I know needing a doctor vs. a stubborn virus. Personally, I have not been to the doctor for an illness since 1992.
I prefer to watch my child's symptoms and let things run their course. I watch for lethargy, dehydration, struggling to breathe, oxygen saturation (based on color), and difficulty handling a fever (the lethargy again, along with potential for seizures). So far (and the oldest will be five), I've only had to take a child in for illness once and that was when my almost five-year-old decided not to pee for 24 hours when he was about six months old.
I wait about a week if they are hydrated, but the symptoms don't go away. I really don't want to take my kid with the flu to the doctor's office to sicken more people.
I usually wait four days, but when she was sick with a very high temp and her throat looked terrible, I took her in right away and turns out it was strep and she needed antibiotics. I just trust my mommy gut (and Google).
I wait and see in most cases. Most of the time, we don't end up seeing a doctor. If there is a lingering illness or a very high fever, I'll take them in. If there is a serious injury, I'll take them in. It seems silly to drag a kid to the doctor for a cold.
I'm mostly a "wait and see" kind of mom. If my kids have a stuffy nose, cough, or fever, I don't see any point in taking them to a germ-filled waiting room just so the doctor can tell me to have them rest up for a few days. My kids are nine and eleven so I think I have the whole fluids, rest, and salt water routine sorted out. There are exceptions, of course. Trouble breathing, very high fever, symptoms of that kind I would get to a doc fast.
Others Go for Specific Symptoms
I only take my kids to the doctor for strep, or an ear infection, or something similar that needs to be treated with antibiotics. If it's just a cold it's pretty obvious and they don't go for that. Most respiratory infections can't be treated with antibiotics anyway so unless it's really bad, I don't take them for that either.
Fever over 103 -- doctor. Fever over 100 with vomiting or loose bowel for more than 24 hours -- doctor. Deep, persistent, unproductive cough -- doctor.
I was told the rule of thumb is a low grade fever (less then 102ish) is fine for three days. If it doesn't go away after three days, or spikes uncontrollably then take them in.
It depends on what's wrong. My middle daughter, when she was eight, spiked a fever of over 104 and ibuprofen couldn't bring it down. I called the doctor that day. She ended up with pneumonia that they didn't diagnose for another four days, at which point it was "massive" pneumonia. Other times, I have had kids with fever or other symptoms and see what happens. I am not a big antibiotic fan unless something urgent is going on (like that pneumonia).
I take my kids in when I suspect strep or an ear infection. I admit I have a major fear of ear infections and I worry about them becoming serious due to my own medical history with ear infections. However if they are running a fever or have a cold, no I don't rush off to the doctor. I wait a few days to a week before I take them in.
I don't run to the doctor if they have something like a cold or the flu, and I don't demand antibiotics for every little thing, but I'll certainly take them for stuff like strep throat, bronchitis, or ear infections.
I only go to the doctor if I have reason to believe it might be something that I need to give them medicine for, like strep.
If my child has some 24 hour stomach bug, or a fever, I keep them home. If their fever lasts for three days, or is getting "hotter," I take them to the doctor. If they're still vomiting after 24 hours and are getting dehydrated, I call the doctor.
These Moms Rarely Go
I don't take my son until his illness precludes him from eating or sleeping. He hasn't been to the doctor for an illness since he was a baby, he's six now. I think there is a difference between being really sick and feeling really terrible, and being so sick you need a doctor. I'm not dragging a sick kid to the doctor to have them tell me to give him fluids and rest.
I have never taken my child to the doctor for anything but a well visit and we don't even do those any more. My kids have not been to the doctor in three years.
We see the doctor for checkups and shots, and once in a while if it's something they need meds for, but it's not the first place I go. I try to fix it my self.
I have found some ways to treat illness that doctors don't use and they work very well. My kids are much healthier than kids on antibiotics all the time. Doctors can't do a whole lot for a virus anyways. I use the same treatment that doctors used before antibiotics came along.
I don't take my kids to the doctor for everything that is wrong. Parents who do, get on my nerves! I think each of mine go once a year. Two of mine also have asthma and allergies and we still don't need to go; as long as we have enough eczema cream and allergy medicine. Mostly we handle it with diet, keeping them mostly indoors, and not bathing every day and using a THICK, good lotion like Aquaphor.
In most cases, you are contagious with an illness prior to realizing that you are even sick, prior to the onset of symptoms. So it is very difficult to keep your child from spreading an illness to others because you don't know for sure if they are contagious or not. I'm another mom that waits a week before taking the kids to the doctor. In fact, my boys very rarely are ever at the doctor because they never have anything other than a regular cold. Both boys just had their yearly physicals, my oldest wasn't at the doctor even once between physicals and my youngest was only there one time for an ear infection. I was actually praised by my doctor for not bringing my boys in for every little thing. Another interesting thing that you should now, a fever isn't a bad thing at all. It is the body's way of fighting off the illness and that is a good thing. It means that the body is working properly. Any fever under 104 is nothing to worry about, unless you have an infant.
Aside from a routine checkup, my kids haven't been to the doctor in close to three years. One reason is they don't really get sick much, another is because I don't take them for colds, or sniffles, or little fevers. If they had an alarmingly high temperature, or an extended one, I would take them.