Children have difficulties that may need medical attention. If you are wondering whether to consult with a physician about an issue with your child, you definitely should talk with your child’s doctor about your concerns. Unless you are a physician or have been specifically medically trained, talking with a physician is, without exception, your best choice whenever a problem may be medically related. This especially applies to reports of signs, symptoms, or problems that seem unusual, severe, or about which you have no knowledge or information.
Below are common signs of medical difficulties you may see in your child. Each of the listed signs needs medically evaluated and some mean there is an emergency. The additional comments accompanying a few of the signs will assist you to better understand the specific signs.
Signs needing medical attention
Vomiting, especially if it recurs and does not completely stop within six hours or if there are more than minor streaks or traces of blood in the vomited material.
Frequent or severe stomachaches, especially if they awaken your child during the night or are localized in specific areas (other than the navel).
A rash that persists for more than four or five days or is accompanied by a fever or sore throat.
Frequent wheezing. Wheezing may seem to have stopped but continue to be a problem only trained medical personnel can detect.
Frequent coughing not obviously related to a cold or persisting for more than three or four days.
Diarrhea, i.e., watery stool occurring more than four or five times in a day, especially if it lasts for more than one or two days or if there are several watery stools per hour over five or six hours.
Difficulty seeing, using one eye more than the other, frequent squinting, blurred vision, or double vision. Blurred or double vision should be treated as a medical emergency.
Frequent or severe earaches. Do not apply heat to an earache. Instead, a cold compress should be used. (Some drainage of wax from the ear is likely not significant but discharge or drainage of milky or greenish matter needs medical attention.)
Ringing sensations or fullness in the ears, especially if the discomfort, ringing, or fullness lasts for more than a day or two.
Difficulty hearing, especially if it persists.
Bleeding, especially from the ears, eyes, mouth, or bleeding that does not stop within five to six minutes or does not begin to slow in three minutes or so.
An elevated temperature, especially if it lasts for more than a day or goes over 101 degrees. An elevated temperature is not necessarily serious but should be reported to your child’s physician.
A sore throat lasting for more than a day or two or if there is swelling or problems swallowing. It is usually even more significant if your child with a sore throat also has a fever.
Red, runny, or swollen eyes. This is usually not a sign there is an immediate threat to your child’s health but does need evaluated by a physician to determine the significance of the symptoms. If you suspect that there may be something in your child’s eye and the symptoms do not clear in fifteen minutes or so, consulting with a physician is necessary.
Frequent or severe headaches, including headaches that last for more than a few hours no matter how severe or headaches associated with vomiting.
Stuttering, stammering, or incoherent speech, especially if the problem persists or is not obviously related to excitement or other strong emotions.
A bluish tinge to lips (including the tongue or the inside of the mouth), ear lobes, or fingernails, especially when unrelated to being cold. If the symptoms suddenly appear, consult with a physician immediately.
Shortness of breath or wheezing after slight exertion, especially if the sign recurs.
Pain or burning when urinating. Also watch for more than traces of blood in the stool or any blood in the urine.
Persistent itching, pain, sores, a rash or other irritation, or more than slight and temporary discomfort in the genital or rectal area.
Cuts, scratches, or bruises that do not heal noticeably in a few days. Also watch for any unusual, multiple, or severe bruises, scars, burns, or other injuries not obviously related to trauma or in unusual places such as the back.
Swollen joints or swelling of the legs or feet. If the symptoms suddenly appear, an immediate medical consultation is needed.
Being unusually over-weight. This usually does not have a medical cause but should always be evaluated by a physician.
Losing weight, especially if not obviously related to illness or if your child’s health is not being supervised by a physician. Pre-adolescents should not try to lower or seriously control their weight without medical supervision; and adolescents should not diet to lose more than five pounds or so without medical consultation.
Frequent rapid, jerky movements, especially if in the area of the face or involving the arms or legs. Some jerking when going to sleep is normal.
Brief or extended periods of blanking out or loss of awareness. Seeing this once or twice warrants medical consultation.
Fainting or passing out. If this results from getting too hot, it is a medical emergency.
Numbness of any body part, especially if your child was not cold, in one position too long, or if feeling does not return in five minutes or so.
General weakness, especially if your child is not ill, tired, or if it involves only one side of the body.
Unusual staggering or lack of balance.
Convulsions, seizures, or unusual spells.