Bleeding, broken bones, a high fever, and a strange rash, are all things that send hundreds of thousands of parents running to the emergency room each year. It’s a fact of life; parents worry about their children’s health. But here’s the reassuring truth; as parents, you know everything about your children—their habits, routines, and troubles—so you’ll be able to catch almost any problem. For a little extra help, add these symptoms to your parental radar. You might need to see a doctor if they persist.
Lack of Response to Loud Sounds
Newborns and babies can’t tell you if they’re not hearing correctly, and they don’t respond to every stimulus the way we would expect. Many, but not all, states require newborn hearing screenings. If you notice your sweet bundle of joy isn’t bothered by or doesn’t respond to loud sounds, make an appointment with your pediatrician to check for potential hearing problems.
Learn about potential causes of hearing impairment.
As children get older and are introduced to personal music devices, loud stereos, video games, and television, they could be putting their hearing at risk. In fact, as many as one in three teenagers has some level of hearing loss. That’s more than double the rate just a decade ago. Help keep noise at safe levels; MP3 players should never go above half volume. Same goes for TVs, video games, and movies. Limit hours spent around loud noises as much as possible.
Again, babies can’t tell you that their vision is blurry, or let you know if they can’t focus their eyes. But there are ways you can tell. If your baby never seems to focus on objects or he or she has a hard time “finding” close objects like your face or hand, let your pediatrician know. For school-age children, watch for signs like squinting, difficulty reading, or sitting too close to the TV. If your child is not performing well in class, make sure to ask if he or she can see the blackboard. Many children are labeled “poor students” or “disruptive” or are even diagnosed with ADHD when really they just have unidentified poor vision. Constant eye rubbing (at any age) is another sign of potential vision problems.
Learn more about assessing vision problems by visiting the Eye Health Learning Center.
High Fever and Severe Headache
Kids often run fevers due to various ills—stomach troubles, 24-hour bugs, and minor infections, for example. But when a high fever is accompanied by a headache so severe your child has a hard time keeping his or her eyes open, that’s a sign of a bigger problem. See your pediatrician to rule out meningitis (inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord) right away. If caught early enough, treatment can prevent serious complications and death.
Learn more about the symptoms of meningitis.
Stomachaches can be commonplace for some kids, especially as they work through new diets, try new foods, or have the occasional junk food overload. But if you notice an extra level of discomfort in your child, including abdominal pain in the lower right side, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach tenderness when touched, there may be a bigger problem—appendicitis. The key difference between appendicitis and a stomach bug is that in appendicitis, the stomach pain worsens over time.
If your child shows symptoms of fatigue or doesn't seem to have the energy he or she usually does, there may be a problem. There are several causes of extreme fatigue; do not discount these complaints as symptoms of late nights or adolescence. Your doctor will investigate a range of possibilities, including but not limited to anemia, malabsorption, headaches, and depression. It is important, particularly with teenagers, that you give your child the option of speaking with the doctor without you in the room. It is possible that your child may be uncomfortable discussing specific medical or social issues in front of you.
Read about other causes of fatigue.
Nearly 10 percent of children in the United States has asthma. That’s more than double the number just 20 years ago. Telltale signs include trouble breathing when playing or exercising, a whistling sound when exhaling, shortness of breath, or difficulty recovering from a respiratory infection. The reasons some children are susceptible to asthma triggers and some are not remain a mystery. Treatment doesn’t cure asthma, but it does help minimize symptoms or stops asthma attacks when they occur. If you notice your child is having breathing problems, talk to your pediatrician.
Unexplained weight loss is concerning. One of the first signs of many problems, including cancer, is unintended weight loss. It’s important to see your child’s pediatrician and let him or her know about the weight loss problem as soon as possible.
Read about causes of unintentional weight loss.
Hours spent running and playing games call for adequate hydration, but extreme thirst is another thing altogether. If you notice your child has an insatiable need to drink water or can’t seem to satisfy his or her thirst, see the doctor and ask about diabetes. More than 15,000 children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes each year, and excess thirst is a sign of diabetes.
Learn about causes of excessive thirst.