Caring for a Sick Child: When to See a Doctor
Parents know they have choices when their child is sick: they can treat the child at home, make a doctor's appointment, or go to the emergency room. But at times, knowing which choice to make isn’t always clear.
Certain conditions and ailments can be safely treated or monitored at home, while others can be resolved with a visit to a local walk-in clinic or pediatrician. Consult the articles below for more information on how you can home-treat certain conditions and what primary care resources available for parents who are concerned about their child’s symptoms.
“Most cases of flu can be treated at home with plenty of fluids, lots of rest and some chicken soup,” says Dr. Eisman, Director of The Montreal Children’s Hospital ER. While the presence of an associated fever in a child or toddler can be worrying for parents, Dr. Eisman says there is no need to panic. “Fever is a normal response when the body is fighting a virus, but parents can use over the counter fever reducers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to keep their kids comfortable.”
Dr. Eisman recommends that the time to seek medical advice is if your child is less than three months of age with suspected flu, or is lethargic or has fever that persists for 4 to 5 days.
For more information on flu symptoms and how to home-treat a child with the flu, consult the following articles:
The cold virus often starts in September when children begin their school year. Most cold and flu viruses are passed from child to child by coughing and sneezing. The viruses are often found on children’s hands so it is very important to encourage them to wash their hands often and practice proper respiratory etiquette.
- A simple cold with a cough, runny nose and slight fever is not serious and a child can still go to school with these types of symptoms.
- A child who’s sicker, though, presenting with a fever may need to be kept at home for two or three days.
Most parents of children who have colds don’t bring them in to the emergency room because it isn’t necessary. The best treatment for a cold is bed rest and Tylenol (acetaminophen), to bring your child’s fever down and make him feel more comfortable.
For more information on cold symptoms and how to home-treat a child with a cold, consult the following articles:
Gastroenteritis is often called “stomach flu.” But is not really related to the flu or influenza. It is irritation of the stomach and intestines due to infection with a virus. Most children with viral gastroenteritis get better in a few days without a doctor’s treatment. Because a child with gastroenteritis may have trouble keeping fluids down, he or she is at risk for dehydration and should be watched closely.
Most cases of gastroenteritis get better without treatment. (Antibiotics are NOT helpful against viral infections.) The goal of treatment is to make the child comfortable and to prevent dehydration.
For more information on gastroenteritis symptoms and how to home-treat a child with the gastro, consult the following articles:
Alternatives to emergency care
Alternatives to emergency care
There are a number of primary care resources available for parents who are concerned about their child’s flu, cold or gastro symptoms. The Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services has a bilingual website (http://www.inforgrippe.gouv.qc.ca/) that contains answers to many of your flu related questions, including symptoms, vaccination side effects, prevention and treatment.
Many CLSCs and local clinics also offer walk-in services for seasonal flu, cold and gastro symptoms. To locate the clinics and CLSCs nearest you, consult the Ministry of Health and Social Services’ website (http://www.msss.gouv.qc.ca/) and enter your postal code.