When To Take A Child To The Doctor

Doctor talking to child sitting on mother's lap

Mothers are often thought to be over-reacting when it concerns the health of their children. So how do you know when to take a child to the doctor?

The signs that indicate that a doctor should be consulted include:

Fever

  • a child with a fever over 41°C requires immediate medical attention;
  • a child with a fever of 40°C requires medical attention within 12 hours;
  • a child with a fever over 39°C requires medical attention if it persists for more than 24 hours;
  • a child with a fever between 37°C (normal) and 39°C can be observed for a few days.

Not eating

  • a child who refuses to eat for more than 24 hours needs medical assessment.

Not drinking

  • a child who refuses to drink for more than 12 hours needs medical assessment.

Urine reduced

  • a child whose urine production is significantly reduced for 24 hours needs medical assessment.

Diarrhoea

  • a child with copious watery diarrhoea for more than 24 hours requires medical attention.

Vomiting

  • a child who vomits for more than 12 hours should be medically assessed.

Lethargy

  • a child who is floppy and poorly responsive requires immediate medical attention;
  • a child who is reluctant to play or get out of bed requires medical attention if it persists for more than 24 hours;
  • a child with unusual tiredness and listlessness should be checked after a few days.

Breathing

  • a child who stops breathing for more than 20 seconds needs emergency medical treatment;
  • a child who has rapid, noisy or shallow breathing requires rapid medical attention.

Skin colour

  • a child with blue skin needs emergency medical treatment;
  • a child with pale or mottled skin needs urgent medical assessment.

Rash

  • a rash that persists for more than 24 hours should be medically assessed.

Convulsion

  • any child who has a fit or convulsion requires immediate medical attention.

Pain

  • a child with pain that causes constant screaming requires urgent medical attention;
  • a child with pain that is not relieved by simple analgesics (eg. paracetamol) requires  medical attention within a couple of hours;
  • a child with pain that is relieved by simple analgesics but recurs for more than 12 hours should be medically assessed.

Neck pain

  • a child with a painful and stiff neck requires medical attention within a couple of hours, particularly if they have an accompanying headache and light hurts their eyes;
  • if the child also has a dark red or purplish rash, emergency medical attention is essential.

Lumps

  • a child with a painful lump in the groin requires medical attention within a couple of hours;
  • a child with a tender painful lump anywhere on the body requires medical assessment within 12 hours.

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(Last modified: 3rd Nov 2014)

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