by Anna Hicks
As parents we are prone to over reaction when it comes to our little humans’ health. Each little sniffle–especially if it is from the nose of our first born–could be a sign of impending doom. As our babies get older, we mostly (try to) get calmer but it is still important to know when a sniffle is harmless and when a sniffle really is a sign of something worse and it is especially important to know what to do and where to go when a serious situation does present itself.
The sound of a child’s sniffle or cough is usually not something over which you should panic. If they are otherwise healthy, that sniffle or cough could be because of a dry throat or a dusty toy. It is when that sniffle or cough lasts and gets worse or is accompanied by other symptoms that you need to worry (but not on the outside! Freaked out tiny humans are incredibly difficult to wrangle).
Here are some common ailments and when they should worry you:
Severe Fever: If the number on the thermometer reads 104 or higher (yikes) head in to urgent care or the emergency room right away. Otherwise, give yourself time to wait it out. If the fever is between 101-104 and hasn’t gone down after an hour and/or isn’t responding to children’s ibuprofen or other fever reducers (make sure your child is old enough to take this and only administer a child sized dose!) then head in. If the fever is lower than 101, it’s a waiting game. If the fever sticks around for a few days or is accompanied by other issues, like a stiff neck, call your doctor and ask them to squeeze you in.
Bites: Remember when we were little and didn’t have to worry about mosquito bites beyond dealing with the itch factor? Today problems like West Nile, Zika, etc. make even mosquito bites problematic. This doesn’t mean that you need to head into the doctor’s office every time your child gets a bug bite. Watch the site for awhile (at least a day for common insect bites). If it swells up or shows other abnormalities, head for urgent care. If, however, your child was bitten by a tick or a larger animal, go to the doctor immediately.
Rashes: Does it go away when you put hydrocortisone cream on it? Your child is probably fine. Is your child running around like nothing is wrong? They’re likely fine. Rashes are only problematic when they stick around for more than a few days or expand beyond the usual “irritation”-type bumps. Large welts, open sores, etc are all signs that a rash needs attention. Constant scratching at the rash is another warning sign.
Colds/Flus: Most of the time rest and fluids are all your child needs. If the flu or cold lasts longer than a week or if the accompanying fever gets too high or lasts more than 3 days, you should see a doctor.
The Best Offense is a Good Defense
When you realize it’s time to see a doctor it is important to stay calm, lest you freak out your child. And it is much easier to stay calm if you know exactly what to do and where to go. For example, one of the most important things you need to do is figure out which urgent care center is nearest your home. This is relatively simple: pull up Google Maps and type in your city name and “urgent care.” For example, if you live in the Bay Area, you’d type “urgent care San Francisco.”
From here you’ll be able to narrow your options to the urgent care centers that are closest, that take your insurance, that charge the lowest rates, that take young patients, etc. Find the one you need/want and then take a couple of test drives to the location when you’re calm so you’ll know where it is and how to get there when your calmness is, shall we say, forced.
Another good idea is to have a “go bag” packed and ready. This could be a spare diaper bag or even a tote bag. Whatever works for you is fine. This bag should contain copies of your insurance cards, your child’s immunization records, a list of allergies, conditions, medications that being dealt with, a change of clothing and a few options for entertainment if you face long wait times.
Knowing what to watch for and where to go might seem like very basic advice, but that’s the point: when you’re worried, the basics tend to fly out the window. Do everything you can now so that when you’re panicked you can switch to autopilot and still be okay.