Do you feel like you are out of practice when it comes to analyzing the health of your kids? You’re not alone.
After nearly two years of masks, social distancing, and largely avoiding public crowds and places, our kids did not have the opportunity to exercise their immune system ”normally.”
This means the flu and the common cold dwindled in 2020 and 2021.
“Now that pandemic restrictions are relaxing and children are foregoing wearing masks in school,” says Dr. Hassan Alzein of Alzein Pediatrics in Oak Lawn and Evergreen Park, “the phone in our offices are beginning to ring more often again.
Parents are remembering what it’s like when “that cough that’s going around” infects the house, but they aren’t sure if the severity of the cough warrants an appointment.”
Dr. Alzein has provided a guide to his patients. “These are the top five reasons you should bring your child into their pediatrician’s office – or at least call to inquire about how to interpret symptoms,” he says.
1. Cover the Basics at Well-Visits and Immunization Appointments
Pediatricians reported a drop in well-child visits and gaps in immunizations in children during the pandemic.
“Understandably, parents didn’t want to bring their children into the waiting room at the doctor during a global pandemic if they didn’t have too. The medical community understands that logic,” says Dr. Alzein.
However, he notes that well-visit check-ups are the best way to record a baseline of health and growth for your child.
It is also the best way to catch development delays or chronic illnesses that your child may have before complications develop.
“We want to keep your children on schedule for their immunizations too because the American Academy of Pediatrics schedule has been researched and developed with both safety and effectiveness in mind,” he notes.
2. Low-grade Fevers Can Be a Good Sign. High-grade Fevers are Not.
The average normal body temperature is 98.6°F. If your child’s body temperature rises, that means your child’s immune system is doing its job and fighting off infection.
A low-grade fever, below 100.4°F, can be monitored at home with liquids and rest. However, says Dr. Alzein, if your child complains of neck pain or the fever lasts more than two days, call your doctor.
“A temperature between 100.5° and 103°F is more concerning. At first, you can still monitor at home with remedies such as clear liquids, rest, and acetaminophen to bring the fever down to a safer range.
If a high fever of 103° lasts longer than two hours and is unaffected by acetaminophen, call your doctor as soon as possible,” says Dr. Alzein.
If the fever reaches 104°F seek medical attention immediately to avoid the risk of seizures.
3. Severe Pain or Discomfort
Depending on the age and communication level of your child, you may struggle to understand how much pain your child is experiencing.
Babies may cry uncontrollably, lose their appetite, and grab at the area of their body that is causing pain, such as their ears or stomach.
The severe stomach pain could be from digestive distress, such as relentless constipation or an inflamed appendix.
“If this pain lasts for more than a few hours, call your doctor,” says Dr. Alzein. “If the pain becomes debilitating, seek urgent care.
Depending on the severity of symptoms, they may suggest that you go straight to urgent care of the emergency department at your local hospital.”
4. Discoloration of the skin or eyes
A rash is a symptom that can range from “not a big deal” to “seek medical attention now.
”Dr. Alzein says, “That’s as clear as mud, right? A rash could be a skin reaction to a certain laundry detergent, a sign of an allergy to a new food, or an indication that a medical event has begun, such as chickenpox. A rash can also accompany a high fever.”
The first thing parents should note is the location of the irritation. Where is the rash? Is it spreading or is it localized to one area?
“A small, localized rash is something to watch.
If it doesn’t clear up after a few days with over-the-counter medications, then give your pediatrician a call,” says Dr. Alzein.
If the rash is painful to touch or starts to spread, call your pediatrician immediately to narrow down the cause and find a solution.
Not only should you make sure your child’s skin is consistent color, but the whites of their eyes also need to stay white.
Dr. Alzein says, “Get your kids into the doctor immediately if you notice the whites of their eyes have turned pink, a tell-tale sign of pinkeye.
If the whites begin to turn yellow, that is a sure sign that there is an issue with their liver – and they need urgent and immediate medical attention.”
5. Major Shifts in Mood, Behavior, Routine
Children at any age go through phases of intense moodiness. They are in a constant flux of development, changes, and hormones surging and falling.
It is normal for kids to need some alone time in their rooms now and then.
However, Dr. Alzein notes, if you notice a consistent behavior change – suddenly anxious about school, not wanting to be with friends, cranky, and short with the family – you should have a chat with your child and schedule an appointment with your pediatrician.
“It is important to rule out any medical reasons for the changes in your child’s behavior and general attitude,” Dr. Alzein says.
“Once your child receives a clean bill of physical health, you can focus on giving them the tools and support they need for their mental health. Be sure that they know it’s ok to talk and ask for help.
If they are not comfortable talking to you, make sure there is someone that they do feel comfortable talking to, whether it’s a trusted relative or a school counselor.”
Children, ages 3 to 17 are diagnosed with anxiety and depression more today than at any other time in history.
“Do not rule out mental illness as a problem when assessing your child’s overall health,” says Dr. Alzein.
In the End – Make the Phone Call
Dr. Alzein stresses, “If you are ever unsure about whether your child needs medical attention, make a phone call to the pediatrician’s office.
Nurses on staff can pull up your child’s medical history, listen to your concerns, and give you a general recommendation of how to continue home care, or if you need to make an appointment.
Your medical staff will also help you understand what might indicate your child is not getting better and needs an appointment to be evaluated.”
Trust your parental instincts, Dr. Alzein says.“If you as a parent suspect something isn’t right, there probably is something going on.
On the off chance that you’re mistaken and your child just needs to ride out the germs at home, you will have the peace of mind of knowing that nothing is serious.
The doctors and nurses at your pediatrician’s office are here for you and to support your child’s well-being.”
Sandra is a health blogger based in San Diego, California. She is passionate about living a healthy lifestyle. She loves being outdoors and exploring new places with her husband. She is a mom of two awesome kids and a dog named Luna!