When should I take my child to the doctor?

It’s one of the most common parenting conundrums – your child is feeling a bit off-colour, seems miserable and may be running a slight fever. So is it time to head to your GP?

It’s a question Dr Elana Gance is regularly asked by patients and friends about sick children.

“It seems that each time they go to the doctor, they get told it’s a viral infection and there is nothing specific to be done.  Rest, fluids and paracetamol and wait a few days,” she says.

Should I treat my child at home or go to the doctor?

Firstly, it’s important to know that if your child is under three months of age, is otherwise ill or has a low immune system, they always need to see a doctor when they are unwell.

But if your youngster is usually well and has a low-grade fever, Dr Gance’s A, B, C, D rule can help you decide whether to treat them at home or seek medical help.

A – Alertness

“Most kids with a fever can be less active and sleep more, and that’s okay,” she says.

But if your child is weak, floppy and unresponsive or hyper-alert and irritable, they need to see a doctor.

B – Breathing

If your son or daughter has altered breathing that is either fast, noisy or they are working hard to breathe, it’s time for further advice.

C – Skin colour

If your child is unusually pale or blue or has a rash, you should seek medical advice.

D – Dehydration

Kids get dehydrated much faster than adults.

“If your child is drinking less than half their normal amount or not passing urine for more than six hours, it’s time to visit your GP,” Dr Gance says.

“Dehydration will happen much quicker if they are vomiting or have diarrhea on top of decreased intake.”

Keep monitoring signs and symptoms

In the end, says Dr Gance, parents have to feel happy.

“If they are well within themselves, with minor symptoms that can be relieved with paracetamol or ibuprofen, and they seem to be getting better within 48 hours, you can feel comfortable keeping them at home for a day or two,” she says.

“As long as they are over three months to one year of age, no underlying medical illnesses and you can tick off my A, B, C, D and you feel comfortable.

“Remember, you know your child best.  If you’re worried at any stage, you should always take them to the doctor.”

Read more about ways to keep your kids healthy at school and why winter sport is good for kids.

Disclaimer: This advice is general in nature only and should at no time replace medical advice.

Catch up on the full episode of The House of Wellness TV show to see more from Zoe, Ed, and the team.