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Fever: A high temperature can be scary, but try to remember it’s a sign your child’s body is busy fighting an illness, not an illness in and of itself. There are two instances when you should call the pediatrician immediately, day or night, Dr. Kerry Fierstein says. Those would be when infants younger than 3 months have a rectal temperature of 100.4 or higher, and when a child older than 3 months has a fever of 106. The pediatrician will decide if the child needs to be seen immediately or if it can wait until the morning. “In general we recommend tailoring the treatment to the child and not reacting to the height of the fever,” Dr. Kerry Fierstein explains. “For example, if the child is drinking, resting quietly and not in pain, the pediatrician will likely say that it’s OK to wait until the morning to be seen, and Tylenol may not even be necessary.”
Strep Throat: Signs of this include sore throat, fever, and sometimes a stomache ache. Your pediatrician can easily diagnose and treat it. If it’s off hours, it’s worth it to head to the urgent care for a strep test, especially if you’ve heard strep is going around your child’s school.
Vomiting and diarrhea: As unpleasant as it is, you should try to manage this completely at home. Most of these illnesses are caused by viruses, so there really isn’t anything a doctor can do to make it pass more quickly. Besides that, bringing a child in that condition into an office can infect other patients. “The recommendation is to keep the child hydrated by giving small amounts of liquid, as much as can be tolerated,” Dr. Hammond says. However, if symptoms are severe, lasting more than 24 hours, or if the child isn’t urinating, call your pediatrician. The emergency room or urgent care might be necessary for rehydration through IV fluids.
Cold: At this time of year, one of the most common complaints is the seasonal cold, easily picked up at school. It can be treated at home unless a child is so stuffed up she has difficulty breathing or it goes on for more than 3 to 5 days. In those cases, make a pediatrician’s appointment. This isn’t serious enough to warrant rushing to the urgent care center or the ER.
Croup: This variation of a cold, which causes a bark-like cough and noisy breathing, is also common during the winter months. “If it’s mild, try sitting with your child in a steamy bathroom. If it’s more severe, or that doesn’t work, head to your pediatrician’s office if it’s open,” Dr. Hammond says. “If it’s not open, then go to either an urgent care center or to an emergency room. If he’s really struggling to breathe, then the emergency room is the best place to be monitored.”
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