A child’s health and wellbeing is always a paramount concern in any parent’s mind. When a child starts to become unwell, parents often turn to the Internet for advice on symptoms and possible diagnosis. Whilst there’s access to a wealth of information at the touch of a button, you can’t always ensure you’re getting accurate and safe information from a medical professional, who can offer reassurance and appropriate treatment.
We’ve spoken to Amy Bibby, a hospital doctor and A&E locum, who works for Qure, a new service that provides a ‘doctor to your door’ solution for the residents of London. She has shared the most popular concerns around children’s health, alongside other identifiable symptoms, to help parents decide on the best course of action to take.
Many things can cause a rash in children and they’re often nothing to worry about. I’ve seen many worried parents bring their children to me with a rash concerned that they might have meningitis. And while this is a sound concern to have, there are signs to look out for that can determine whether a rash is simply a side effect of something irritating the skin, a mild viral infection or something a little more sinister.
If you’re concerned about a rash, one of the first things you should do is the blanche test; if the rash disappears under a glass, it’s unlikely to be meningitis. However, there are other things to consider, for example, the combination of a non-itchy rash, headaches, stiff or painful neck, being bothered by light, shaking uncontrollably, having cold hands or feet, high temperatures and/or drowsiness. These could indicate more than just a simple skin irritation or infection. If your child is showing those symptoms or if you have any concern that all is not well I would advise seeking medical help quickly.
As a parent, it can be extremely worrying if your child has a high temperature. But it’s very common and often clears up by itself.
A quick and easy way to find out whether your child has a fever is to take their temperature using a thermometer. Most fevers are caused by infections or other illnesses and the high body temperature makes it more difficult for the bacteria and viruses that cause infections to survive.
Common conditions that can cause fevers include:
- Respiratory tract infections (RTIs)
- Ear infections
- Roseola– a virus that causes a fever and a rash
- Kidney or urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Common childhood illnesses, such as chickenpox and whooping cough
Your child’s temperature can also be raised after vaccinations, or if they overheat because of too much bedding or clothing (so try stripping them down for 20 minutes and see if they cool down).
You should contact your doctor urgently if your child is under three months old and has a temperature of 38C (100.4F) or above, or is between three and six months old and has a temperature of 39C (102.2F) or above. You should also see your doctor if your child has other signs of being unwell, such as persistent vomiting, refusal to feed, floppiness or drowsiness.
If your child seems to be otherwise well – for example, if they’re playing and attentive – it’s less likely they’re seriously ill.
Treating a fever:
If your child has a fever, it’s important to keep them hydrated by giving them plenty of cool water to drink. Babies should be given plenty of liquids, such as breast milk or formula. Even if your child isn’t thirsty, try to get them to drink little and often to keep their fluid levels up.
If the environment is warm, you could help your child to stay at a comfortable temperature by covering them with a lightweight sheet or opening a window. However, they should still be appropriately dressed for their surroundings (sponging your child with cool water is no longer recommended to reduce a fever).
Children’s paracetamol and ibuprofen can help to reduce a fever, but they’re not always needed. If your child doesn’t seem distressed, there’s no need to give them medicine to lower their temperature.
If your child is distressed, don’t give them paracetamol and ibuprofen at the same time. Try one on its own first. If they’re still distressed before the next dose is due, you could try the other medicine instead. But call your doctor if you’ve tried both medicines and they haven’t helped.
In the winter time, parents are regularly concerned about harsh coughs or wheezing chests. While there are often child-friendly remedies available from your chemist or supermarket, there are things to be on the lookout for if you’re worrying. One of the biggest signs of something more serious would be shortness of breath or struggling to finish a sentence without needing to pause for regular breaths (in children old enough to talk), or in younger children, the drawing in of the muscles between the ribs or where the ribs meet above the tummy. If your child tends to cough at night this could be a sign of asthma. It should also be said that the severity of coughs and breathing depends on age, so if you have any questions contact a certified health practitioner.
Sore, red eyes:
If your baby is a newborn (under 28 days of age) and you think they have conjunctivitis, you must see a GP. Children often find themselves coming into contact with things that might irritate sensitive parts of their body such as their eyes, causing them to be sore and red for a few days, but this should eventually calm down once the bacteria or virus has been washed away. Often nowadays, conjunctivitis is treated with bathing the eye in warm water with no need for antibiotics. It is often infectious and tends to be easily spread but older children with good hygiene do not have to miss school. Your child’s nursery or school may have an exclusion policy however.
While the advice I have given comes from numerous years in the medical profession, I also know that every child is different, therefore I always advise that you assess the situation and do what makes you feel comfortable.
Qure is one of London’s newest and most innovative health services. It provides a speedy 24/7 ‘doctor to your door’ service via an app, offering affordable medical attention at the touch of a button. To find out more about Qure and its services, please visit Qure.