Family Physicians’ Forum: How Do I Know When to Take My Child to the Doctor? -- By: William R. Cutrer
JFM 2:1 (Fall/Winter 2011) p. 46
Family Physicians’ Forum:
How Do I Know When to Take My Child to the Doctor?
William R. Cutrer (M.D., University of Kentucky College of Medicine) is the C. Edwin Gheens Professor of Christian Ministry and the director of the Gheens Center for Christian Family Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Cutrer has authored or co-authored several publications, including Sexual Intimacy in Marriage (Kregel).The Infertility Companion (Zondervan), The Contraception Guidebook (Zondervan), and most recently The Church Leader’s Handbook: A Guide to Counseling Families and Individuals in Crisis (Kregel).
Bill Cutrer (M.D., University of Kentucky College of Medicine) is assistant professor of pediatrics at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine. Bill specializes in pediatric critical care.
We are launching a series of health-related articles to encourage those developing parenting skills. We hope to help them increase confidence in their ability to observe their children, and discern when circumstances are changing. All children have occasional illnesses or injuries, most of which are not serious and which parents will know how to handle without medical assistance. But, occasionally, an issue will arise that makes them wonder if they should call for help. What are the worrisome signs, the developing medical picture that needs professional attention? The advice offered in this article presumes the child has had regularly scheduled health evaluations that include measurements for growth, evaluation of nutritional status, necessary vaccinations, and evaluation of intellectual milestones. This preliminary assumption allows us to address those “crisis moments” when parental confidence wavers.
This initial article will focus on children under two years of age who communicate more accurately with symptoms than with words. The younger the child, the less ability to handle illnesses, so the decision about when to seek medical care becomes more critical. We’ll reflect on some of the most common situations that arise in the under-two group that cause anxiety and confusion for parents, especially after-hours when the doctor’s office has closed. How does a three-month-old or six-month-old let parents know he or she is sick? They can’t “tell” anyone in the typical fashion, but their bodies generally provide helpful clues such as fever, gastrointestinal distress (nausea, no appetite, vomiting, diarrhea), rashes, breathing changes, and general “fussiness.” Pain is one of the trickiest symptoms to decipher and is often communicated by irritability, or response to touch, but the littlest ones may not be able to make this clear.
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