How can I tell if my child is sick?
Is my child very sick?
Healthy young children have on average 12 infections each year. These are a normal part of childhood. As a parent or caregiver you deal with these but you may worry about missing a serious illness.
There is no foolproof system to tell you whether or not your child is seriously ill.
Knowing your child and seeing a change in your child’s behaviour could be the most important clue.
What do you do if you think your child is sick?
Depending on the circumstances you may decide to:
see your GP (general practitioner)
go to an after-hours medical centre
dial for urgent medical help
You should stay calm and explain why you are worried about your child. Ask for your child to be seen by a doctor.
If you are waiting to be seen and think that your child is getting sicker, calmly explain again why you need your child to be seen soon.
In some circumstances it might be better to dial urgent medical help for help rather than travel to the doctor using your own car.
The following is a list of some of the symptoms that mean your child has a significant health problem. See a doctor if your child:
has an unusual colour – they are very pale or have blue tongue and lips
has a worrying rash especially one that does not go away when you press on it
is very sleepy or drowsy
has an unusual high-pitched cry
has trouble breathing, has noisy breathing or is breathing fast
complains of a stiff neck or light hurting their eyes
has a severe headache
refuses to drink - even small sips
is not passing urine
passes urine that is very dark or has blood in it
vomits a lot – and cannot keep sips of replacement drinks down
vomits yellow-green fluid (bile)
vomits blood – this may be red or brown or look like coffee grounds if it is not fresh
has black tar-like stools or blood in the bowel motions
has frequent and watery bowel motions (diarrhoea)
has a fever that lasts for more than two days
is in pain
is not interested in surroundings (lethargic)
is getting sicker or is not improving after two days
What about young babies?
Young babies (less than three months old) need a more cautious approach.
If your child is under three months old and you are worried about them, they should be checked by a doctor, even if they do not have one of the above symptoms. You should trust your instinct.
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