Tell-Tale Signs of a Sick Child and Why They Cannot Always be Relied Upon

Seasonal changes bring along with them loads of new activities, lots of fun which accompanies these activities, seasonal adjustments to routine habits and of course – lots of new pathogens and microorganisms.  These microorganisms affect the masses but more so our children – the immune systems of whom are still under strength, not fully developed to protect them against allergies, cold and stomach bug.  As parents, we always want to see our children active, happy and healthy. However, the seasonal and developmental illnesses (like a fever at the time of teething) can dampen the young spirit of the lively ones and in turn subdue the vibrant atmosphere of our homes.

Parents find themselves struggling with the thought that whether the depleted energy is a result of behavioral changes, a mild illness or an illness which require prompt professional care. And to be honest, it could be quite complicated, especially if you are not a health practitioner. There are tell-tale signs which do convey the message:

“Your child is sick.”

What are these signs? This article aims to answer the all-so-important question.

Please note these are just rough guidelines to serve as an initial guide for parents and adults. In no way, these instructions have been set out to deter readers from seeking medical advice. Every situation varies and the best decision could only be made by assessing the specific condition of the child and taking into consideration all the related elements.

Tell-Tale Sign #1: Fever

Commonly, fever is associated as an illness. However, that’s not the case. Fever is a body’s defense response mechanism indicating that your child is fighting against an infection or a sickness. If the child is very young, like still in infancy, it is normal to have mild fever during different periods of a day but make sure that the mild fever does not transform into a long-lasting fever. If that happens, it’s time to visit a doctor.

Tell-Tale Sign #2: Increased Urination Frequency

Increased urination could be a result of increased water intake or a body’s physiologic reflex to regulate internal temperature. Both these factors could be a result of a developing sickness or an infection still in its early stages. If you notice, your child has been urinating more while there haven’t been any changes in other variables, medical attention is needed.

Tell-Tale Sign #3: Development of Rashes

The skin of children, especially the infants, is extremely sensitive to physiological changes that are happening inside the body. A change associated with an infection or pathogenicity is often exhibited in the form of skin rashes and irritations. Where at times these rashes may not be a cause of any serious concern, in other situations they could be an indication of serious illnesses like meningitis, measles and rubella.  In such cases, it is advisable to consult a doctor as soon as possible.

Tell-Tale Sign #4: Changes in Sleeping Habits

The fourth sign of illness in children is a change in their sleeping habits. Sleeping is a way through which body internally repairs itself and preserves energy to help with these repairs. Normally, when children are suffering from an illness, their sleeping habits change. Children might sleep longer than they normally do, they might sleep during hours of the day in which they are normally awake and at times parents may have trouble in waking them up by providing a stimulus. This should serve as an indication that the body is fighting against an infection.

Tell-Tale Sign #5: Swelling

Swelling in children is an indication of allergic reaction which may or may not be serious depending on the individual case. Swelling can be observed in eyes, tongue or lips. Sometimes the swelling can also be present in a child’s respiratory tract. As such, it is advisable to seek immediate professional care.

Tell-Tale Sign #6: Changes in Eating Habits

Children need nutrition and energy to assist the rapid developmental changes taking place in their body. As parents, there is no one better out there who understands the appetite and feeding hours of your young ones. Therefore, if you notice any variations in the appetite or the hours during which your child normally feels hungry – it could be a sign that your child is sick.

Tell-Tale Sign #7: Changes in Breathing Patterns and Odor

When a child is sick, you may notice changes in their breathing pattern. This could be rapid breathing movements, delayed breathing and wheezing. Moreover, you may even observe your child’s breath to be hotter than normal or scent a bad odor with it. In some cases, your child may even stop breathing for a while without any reason. Whenever you observe any such changes, please contact your doctor immediately.


Do these tell-tale signs always hold true for children of all ages?

Tell-Tale Signs: Why They Do Not Always Tell the Complete Tale?

Tell-tale signs—which have been discussed above and the ones which you may have learned from other resources—cannot always be relied upon.  The reason for this is that when children are young, their physiological systems are not fully developed to exhibit signs of localization.

For instance, when a child has a respiratory infection, the first thing parents and practitioners do is to observe their breathing pattern. But infants who are younger than 3 months may not exhibit any changes in the breathing pattern even when they are infected. Rather, the problem would have to be identified by assessing their responsiveness and alertness. And again, not every stimulus triggers the same magnitude of response among children of different ages. So it could be quite complicated at times for parents. Therefore, it is advisable not to take any risk. If you observe any variations in habits and established routines, visit a doctor to get your child medically examined.


Medical Help: An Ambulance, a Hospital’s ED or a General Practitioner?

Tell Tale Signs of a Sick Child

There are no hard and fast rules which dictate when to call for an ambulance or visit a hospital’s ED or a GP. However, you can use these rough guidelines to take necessary actions – even if they later appear to be unnecessary:

If your child is facing any breathing problems or encountering difficulties in swallowing food – you should call an ambulance.

If your child can breathe, eat and drink but is suffering from drowsiness – you should visit a hospital’s ED.

If your child can carry out routine activities but just isn’t feeling well – you should consult a GP.

Look after your child and offer them love, care and support – they need you.

© Teresa Boardman, Nanny Options

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