When children experience unusual symptoms, they are most often normal and not a cause for concern. However, some signs point to a larger issue. For a little extra help, add the following symptoms to your parental radar. You might need to bring your child to the doctor if they persist.
Newborns and babies can’t tell you if they’re not hearing correctly. They also don’t respond to every stimulus the way we would expect. Many, but not all, states require newborn hearing screenings. If you notice that your child isn’t bothered by or doesn’t respond to loud sounds, make an appointment with your pediatrician to check for hearing problems.
As children get older and are introduced to personal music devices, loud stereos, video games, television, and even noisy city streets, their hearing may be at risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 12.5 percent of children ages 6 to 19 have permanent hearing damage due to exposure to loud noise. Help keep noise at safe levels. When they are listening with headphones, never set the sound above half volume. The same goes for TVs, video games, and movies. Limit time 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 they have a hard time finding close objects like your face or hand, let your pediatrician know. Watch for signs in school-age children 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 they 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 is another sign of potential vision problems.
Kids often run a fever due to illnesses like stomach viruses, 24-hour bugs, and minor infections. When a high fever is accompanied by a headache so severe that your child has a hard time keeping their eyes open, that’s a sign of a bigger problem. See your pediatrician to rule out meningitis right away. If caught early enough, treatment can prevent complications and death.
Stomachaches are commonplace for some kids, especially as they work through new diets, try new foods, or have the occasional junk food overload. There may be a bigger problem if you notice an extra level of discomfort in your child, such as:
- abdominal pain in the lower right side
- stomach tenderness when touched
This could be 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 they usually do, there may be a problem. There are several causes of extreme fatigue. Don’t discount these complaints as symptoms of late nights or adolescence. Your doctor will investigate a range of possibilities, including anemia, malabsorption, headaches, and depression. It’s important, particularly with teenagers, to give your child the option of speaking with the doctor without you in the room. It’s possible that your child may be uncomfortable discussing specific medical or social issues in front of you.
According to the CDC, nearly 10 percent of children in the United States have asthma. Telltale signs include trouble breathing when playing or exercising, a whistling sound when exhaling, shortness of breath, or difficulty recovering from a respiratory infection. 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. Slight fluctuations are normal. Dramatic and otherwise unintended weight loss could be a sign of a problem. It’s important to see your child’s pediatrician and let them know about the weight loss problem as soon as possible.
Hours spent running and playing games call for adequate hydration. Extreme thirst is another thing altogether. If you notice your child has an insatiable need to drink water or can’t seem to satisfy their thirst, see the doctor and ask about diabetes. According to the CDC, about 151,000 people under 20 years old in the United States have type 1 diabetes. Excess thirst is just one symptom. Others include increased urination, extreme hunger, weight loss, and fatigue. If any of these symptoms are present, make an appointment for your child to see their doctor immediately.
There are many reasons your child will need to go to the doctor throughout their growing years. While doctor’s visits are usually routine, some are not. When you and your child are aware of possibly serious symptoms, illnesses can be caught early and treated before complications arise.