When To Take Your Child To A Doctor

Check-up timeHaving children is expensive; there’s no doubt about it. But do medical costs really have to be such a large consideration in your monthly budget? The more anxious and unsure you are about your child’s symptoms, the more likely you are to rush them to the doctor unnecessarily.

Many new parents simply resign themselves to regular doctor’s visits and cough up the inevitable related expenses. But medical costs and the general cost of living in South Africa are skyrocketing; and not everyone can afford unnecessary doctors visits anymore.

There are some occasions when doctor’s visits are recommended for all children. Between the ages of 3 and 6, paediatricians recommend annual routine well-child checkups. Checking weight, height, blood pressure, hearing and vision regularly is important to monitor that your child is continuing to develop in good health. There are some vaccines that can be administered between the ages of 4 and 6 that can provide protection against a number of potentially life-threatening illnesses, like rubella and polio.

But aside from these important well-child checkups, there are all kinds of medical situations that might arise and leave you wondering whether to rush them to the emergency room or simply administer another Panado and just wait it out…

It’s well worth it to learn a few basics about reading your child’s symptoms and knowing a bit about what the symptoms might mean. There’s no need to rush your child to the emergency room every time he or she gets a temperature, provided you know when your worry is warranted.


Childhood symptoms you should never ignore:

  • High fever: Fever is the most common reason doctors visits; for good reason! A fever is the first indication that the body is fighting an infection, and should always be taken seriously. In kids between 3 – 6, any temperature exceeding 38.5 degrees Celsius is reason for concern, especially if it doesn’t respond to over-the-counter treatments or rises steadily. An extreme, prolonged fever can have dire consequences such as febrile seizures, so it’s worth visit to the doctor.
  • Difficulty breathing / laboured breathing: This might indicate something is blocking the airway, which can become a life-threatening situation.
  • Mucous: A runny nose is one thing, but once the mucous is green it indicates an infection that will need antibiotics.
  • A rash: Most rashes are nothing to worry about, but a rash could be a symptom of chickenpox, rubella and measles. If your child develops a rash that spreads quickly or looks purple it might warrant a doctor’s visit.
  • Excessive vomiting or diarrhoea: Children can dehydrate quickly, and it can escalate into a life-threatening situation.
  • Pain that persists: Any pain that doesn’t respond to treatment/waiting should be checked out by a doctor.

This list is by no means exhaustive, and you should take any physical complaints your child makes quite seriously. Especially if they are able to be quite specific about the location of their pain. It can be tricky to know when your child’s symptoms are severe enough to necessitate a doctor’s visit or a trip to the emergency room. As a general rule of thumb, if you feel your child’s symptoms are serious, there’s no harm in picking up the phone and calling for advice.

Use the above list as a reference guide for the most worrying childhood symptoms, in conjunction with your best gut instinct. If you think it warrants a doctor’s visit; then it most probably does.


 – Kahea Rusch


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