Bumps to the head, falling from a height, broken bones, and loss of conciousness are just a few of the situations when you know that your child needs immediate medical care. Some symptoms and cases, however, are more subtle and can go unnoticed. Take note of these and take swift action when you spot them in your child:
1. Sudden changes in behavior
A change in mental status in your child, such as suddenly becoming disoriented, confused, very sleepy, difficult to wake, more withdrawn, and less alert, is a sign of a problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Changes in behavior is a serious symptom, and parents should watch out for it when a child has a fever as well. Often, it's this that points to a problem.
“The height of a child's fever is not always the best indicator of whether or not the child needs to be treated and evaluated. Ang mas importante is to observe for warning signals. See how your child behaves and appears,” said pediatrician and infectious disease specialist Dr. Carmina Arriola-Delos Reyes. When this happens, seek immediate medical consultation.
2. Certain cuts and wounds
A good rule to remember is that if a cut doesn’t stop bleeding after applying firm and steady pressure for 5 minutes, then it’s time to seek emergency care for your child, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
You also have to consider how your child got the wound, said physician Dr. Irene Gardiner. A wound contaminated with dirt or feces, or caused by a puncture from a nail or needle can cause tetanus, which requires your child to get shots. And, even just a scratch from an animal can cause rabies, a disease that's almost always fatal when immediate treatment is not sought.
Other situations where it's necessary to head to the emergency room for a cut is if it’s deep and located in the head, chest or abdomen. Wounds in these areas may not look very serious but can result in shock, according to the Health Guide by The New York Times.
3. A stiff neck accompanied by a fever
Aside from changes in behavior, a stiff neck is also a danger sign to watch out for when accompanied by a fever, as it could point to meningitis. A serious condition, meningitis is the inflammation of the tissue that covers the brain and spinal cord, and it's most commonly caused by a viral infection. Symptoms are often similar to the flu which makes it difficult to spot. Early treatment, however, is crucial, especially in kids.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children below 5 years old are at a higher risk for viral meningitis, with babies younger than a month old more likely to have severe illness.
4. Bleeding gums after a fever
Did you know that the critical phase of dengue fever is a few days after the fever has subsided, and not at the height of the fever itself? This is when symptoms of the disease appear such as bleeding gums, vomiting blood, rapid breathing, and severe abdominal pain, all of which can point to a severe case of dengue.
It's important to note that these symptoms do not necessarily accompany a fever. They often come a few days after your child's high temperature has subsided. When you notice this in your child, rush to the emergency room, advised the World Health Organization.
5. Increased difficulty in breathing
“Breathing problems are more worrisome when the sound comes from the chest and lungs, not the nose,” pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu told Parents. Trouble in breathing may be a sign of an allergic reaction, an asthma attack, choking, pneumonia, whooping cough, or croup.
Listen for a whistling, grunting or panting sound, and watch out for discoloration or blueness around the mouth. You can also take your child’s respiratory rate to check if his breathing is normal. Do this by counting the number of times your child’s chest rises in a minute, said WebMD. For kids 1 to 5 years old, a normal resting breathing rate falls between 20 and 30 breaths per minute. For 4 to 12 year olds, it’s 12 to 30 breaths per minute.