When to Call the Doctor

calling doctorToday’s pediatrics practices are busy places. It can be frustrating to call the office, concerned that your baby may be ill, only to be put on hold while nurses answer phone calls in the order they are received.

Still, when it comes to caring for infants, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. If you’re concerned, call. If you believe it’s an emergency, say so. You know your baby better than anyone, so trust your instincts.

Alteration in consciousness – Your child has little interest in her surroundings, won’t smile or handle toys, seems listless or unresponsive. Urgent attention may be necessary.

Poor muscle tone – Your child has poor muscle control compared to his or her usual level.

A change in color – Blue or pale lips may mean your child is having difficulty breathing in necessary amounts of oxygen.

A change in cry or voice – A lusty cry is a good sign. A weak cry or voice, especially with a fever or drooling, can be serious.

Labored breathing – Breathing with increased respiratory rate, wheezing or abnormal respiratory noises should be reported to the doctor.

Dehydration – The absence of saliva or tears or markedly diminished urination are almost always secondary to prolonged vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Persistent pain – Lasting pain in the belly, ears, head or neck is also a reason to call your physician.

– The child who is up and about and playing happily with her toys, despite a temperature of 103˚ F, is of less concern than a child who is pale or limp and disinterested, even though her temperature may be 101˚ F. If in doubt, check with your pediatrician.  Always call your pediatrician about an infant under 3 months old with a temperature of more than 100° F rectally, a child 3 to 6 months old who has a rectal temperature of more than 102° or a child 6 months old who has a rectal temperature of 103° or higher. Call the doctor if your child’s fever lasts more than 72 hours.

When talking with your doctor:

If you think your child is ill, jot down the symptoms and information related to the illness. To make an accurate diagnosis, the doctor will want to know:

• When did you first suspect that he was ill?

• What is the child’s temperature?

• What medication, if any, have you given him?

• What time did you administer the first dose?

• What is the child’s behavior (coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.)?

• Is the child eating or drinking?

• Has the child urinated or had a bowel movement recently?

For your own information and peace of mind, ask the doctor the following:

• Should I bring my child in for a visit?

• What medication should I be giving him? When and how?

• How will I know if my child is getting worse rather than better?

• When should I stop medication?

• What should I be feeding him?

• When will I know that he is all right?

More Helpful Information

14 Tips for Talking to Your Child's Pediatrician