When Do I Take My Child to the Doctor?

19/365 - My head is hot and my feet are cold. Ha...Hee...Hachoo!
source: Micah Taylor via Flickr Creative Commons

In February, I had a very sick baby. My youngest child was 11 months old. He was running a high fever that wasn’t coming down with medicine. His breathing seemed labored. It was really scary for me! And still, because it was at night, after all the doctor’s offices had closed, I questioned whether or not to take him to an urgent care clinic or just wait until morning.

After calling the after-hours line at our pediatrician’s, we decided it was pretty urgent that we take little Joshua to the walk-in pediatrician’s clinic. And I’m glad that we did, because he had influenza A. (Despite having had a flu shot!) We were able to start treating it immediately and in a few days he was ship-shape.

Whether it’s day or night, though, I think we all question ourselves when it comes to taking our children to the doctor’s office. Is it worth exposing him to germs? Is she really sick, or is it just a cold?

According to pediatrician Jennifer Shu, here is when you should go ahead and at least call the office:

  • High, persistent fever – and always take your infant to the ER if her fever is over 100.4 rectally (under 3 months)
  • Labored or noisy (wheezy) breathing
  • Thick eye discharge that sticks the eyelids together
  • Not producing urine every 6-8 hours (due to vomiting or diarrhea)
  • Vomit or diarrhea containing blood
  • Extremely lethargy or a stiff neck

I think erring on the side of calling the nurse is never a bad thing … especially for Mommy and Daddy’s nerves! But if you’re stuck in a should-I-shouldn’t-I cycle, there are some pointers to consider.

What a Baby with the Flu Taught Me about Mothering


My youngest child, Joshua, was diagnosed with the flu last week. He is 11 months old and usually a fount of joyful grins and babbles. When he started running a high fever, I knew something was up. He had suffered an ear infection not two weeks earlier, and I took him back to the doctor to see if the antibiotics had never eliminated the infection. No, his ears were OK. Probably just a virus.

And then the next night we were at urgent care, getting my 103-degree baby diagnosed with the Real Deal Flu.

My daughter had pneumonia when she was 3, but other than that my kids have been ridiculously well. With three kids, we have none with tubes, only a handful of ear infections between them, no food allergies, and no broken bones (yet – I do have two sons!).

Nothing had prepared me for the ordeal of watching my baby suffer through true influenza. For days he ran that 103 fever that could not be brought down with medicine. He was lethargic and just lay against my chest for long spans of time. His little lungs struggled for air as he panted against the fever. It was heartbreaking. Not knowing what he needed drove me to insanity.

Yet it’s the bad times that bring us closer to the One we need most. Here are the two things I learned most from our experience.

  1. God gave us maternal instinct. My husband is a wonderful, attentive father, but he leans toward the “not worrying” side of most things. It’s something I love and hate about him! The Bible says God created us – male and female – in His image, which I think implies He has what we consider masculine AND feminine qualities. Mothers are given a dose of maternal instinct, a smidgen of the knowledge that God has of His children’s feelings. I was pretty sure something was very wrong with Joshua. I was right. Sometimes you have to trust your instinct (and truly, it’s can’t hurt to err on the side of caution when it comes to our kids’ health).
  2. Jesus loves our children more than we do. I was honestly afraid to put Joshua to sleep a couple of nights, not knowing whether I should take him to the emergency room for breathing treatments. What if he stopped breathing during the night? What if he was struggling for air and I couldn’t tell? I had to force myself to retreat to my own bed and remember that Jesus loves my child much more than I do or could even fathom. Trusting Him with our children is the hardest thing we can do and yet one of the most crucial parts of parenting.

Joshua is thankfully recovered for the most part, but the experience has made me take a step back. Do crisis situations do that for you? 


Jessie Weaver is a stay-at-home mother of three young children in Chattanooga, TN. She blogs personally and for ParentLife and writes for HomeLife and ParentLife magazines often. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Do This Not That: How to Be There for the Family of a Seriously Ill Child

In 2006, Rich and Traci Maynard watched their daughter receive a heart transplant … and the transplant fail. Their 4-year-old daughter, Erika Kate, died that June. But since then, they’ve established the Erika Kate Foundation to help other families of seriously ill children like Erika financially, spiritually, and emotionally.

Here, the foundations offers some do’s and don’ts for helping families of ill children.

Everyone hears what you say.
Friends listen to what you say.
Best friends listen to what you don’t say.
Author Unknown

Don’t try to “fix” things.
DO offer solutions to small daily challenges: provide rides or entertainment for a sibling, bring a home-cooked meal, shovel snow, etc.
Don’t use cliches or try to compare your past experience to theirs.  Comparisons can minimize the pain they are experiencing.
DO be genuine in your responses and acknowledge that you don’t know what to say but want to listen and care.
Don’t attempt to cheer them up—just be there for them.  Be as supportive as you can.
DO be willing to just sit in silence. Show your support if they do want visitors.
Don’t scold, give advice, or lecture. There is no right or wrong way to experience this crisis.
DO listen and support them when they share feelings—even when feelings or behaviors seem extreme to you.
Don’t forget that their challenges may continue for weeks, months, or years past the initial crisis/diagnosis.  The experiences of families who are not in the hospital are often very challenging.
DO pray for your friend.  Prayer is a great source of encouragement and comfort.
Don’t avoid asking about the child because the answer might be difficult.  Yet, don’t probe for lots of specific information.
DO volunteer to make it possible for a parent to have alone time or date time with their spouse.
DO organize an activity in which the family can participate in order to have a break/smile.
DO give blood or become an organ donor in the child’s honor.
DO something.  Don’t wait for them to ask for a favor.

I’m Sick … So Stay Away!

Our household was hit by some kind of virus this weekend. Christy and Jonathan were really sick. Christopher felt really bad and had a fever. And I had my turn at being the primary caregiver!

William_Summey-22.jpgI thought about how everyone seems to respond differently to being sick. I have been told several times how I am not a good patient and tend to want to sleep and just be left alone! Christy is definitely just the opposite, enjoying conversation and companionship even in the midst of being sick. And I think the boys are a mix of us both. They both get grumpy but also need some close attention.

One moment illustrated this well. I stayed up with Jonathan when he was sick but trying to go to sleep. He was uncomfortable with his stomach hurting so he didn’t want anyone too close. I sat at the foot of his bed. Then he asked if I would hold his feet while he went to sleep! A funny request, but it summarized this whole conversation: Sometimes when you are sick you need your space, but need someone close by at the same time taking care!

Obviously sickness is no fun. There is a reason why patients and patience sound so much alike but can be opposites! But in retrospect, it definitely made us slow down and we had some fun time together in the midst of it all.

I hope you are staying well this summer. When your kids are sick, what kind of patients are they?

Taking Care of Yourself

I’m afraid this week I am learning the hard way the importance of taking care of yourself as a parent. Life in the Skulley household has been anything but calm during the month of July. We’ve been going nonstop at work, church, and home … full speed ahead … until the end of last week when both Jack and I became sick, bringing everything to a screeching halt. Jack had a cold that quickly became an ear infection, and I came down with a cold that quickly turned into the never-ending cough/sinus infection. Needless to say, it has not been a fun few days.

67.bubblebath.jpgUltimately, this sickness has been a reality check for me. It is the perfect real-life example of how stress (both good stress and bad stress) can take its toll over time. I have been reminded of how important it is to slow down, reduce stress, and take care of myself so that I can take care of my family.

Weeks ago, I should have taken the advice of Kathy Firkins, the writer for the July 2009 ParentLife article "Super Stressed." She talks about how stress is physical, mental, and emotional. She also provides her "Top 10 Instant Stress Relievers." If you’re feeling stressed, don’t miss this article.

How do you deal with stress? What are the most effective stress relievers that you have found to work for you?