When Do I Call the Doctor?

doctor examing young child
Doctor Examining Baby
Each and every new parent's worst nightmare is not being able to tell when they should call the doctor. Here are some general ideas when to call, but always trust your gut and never be afraid to call your pedicatrition if you are concerned.

by Jennifer Shakeel

Each and every new parent’s worst nightmare is not being able to tell when they should call the doctor. You don’t want to be the hypochondriac parent who calls the doctor or rushes to the ER for every sneeze, but you also don’t want to be the parent that should’ve called the doctor when your child wouldn’t stop crying.

Unfortunately children do not come with instruction manuals. Raising kids is really a trial and error process. You try what you think will work based on your past experiences… or based on what you have seen other parents do or not do. While I cannot tell you the best way to raise your child, or how to avoid the many pitfalls of childrearing (because that would take away all of the fun of parenting)… what I can do is atleast help you know when you need to call the doctor.

First, as a parent and a nurse, my motto is that it is always better to be safe than sorry. But if your little munchkin starts to experience any of the following, pick up the phone and call your pediatrician:

  • A fever greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Sweaty or clammy skin
  • Unusual and persistent crying
  • An injury that causes more than 15 minutes of crying
  • Disruptions in feeding patterns, especially a sudden loss of appetite
  • Ingestion of anything you suspect may be poisonous
  • Vomiting that differs in force or volume from normal spitting up
  • Diarrhea that smells foul or shows blood or mucus or is accompanied by a fever
  • Constipation that is accompanied by vomiting
  • Signs of blood in the urine or bowel movements
  • Unusual listlessness or inactivity
  • Convulsions or twitching fits
  • Marked changes in color or behavior
  • Any unfamiliar or widespread rash
  • Any burns that result in blisters
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • A persistent cough
  • Redness of the eyes or the discharge of pus from the eyes
  • Discharge from the ears or ear pain, which you may be able to recognize by the baby’s constant turning of his head or pulling at his ear
  • Swelling or sinking of the fontanels (the two soft spots in your baby’s head)

(courtesy of

Trust your gut. While you may not have an instructional manual, you do know when there is something wrong with your child. If the symptoms your child is experiencing is not on the list and you are concerned call your doctor that is what they are there for.

If you are made to feel bad for calling, find a different doctor. I am not kidding on this one. Your child’s doctor should be more than willing to talk to you if you are concerned about your child’s well being. They should not make you feel bad, or talk down to you. I say this as a nurse, who has dealt with numerous patients who were afraid to talk to their doctor because of the way the doctor made them feel.

And if for some reason your doctor does not return your call, and your child is in distress, don’t wait, call 911 or head to the emergency room.

Jennifer Shakeel is a writer and former nurse with over 12 years medical experience.  As a mother of two incredible children with one on the way, I am here to share with you what I have learned about parenting and the joys and changes that take place during pregnancy. Together we can laugh and cry and rejoice in the fact that we are moms!

No part of this article may be copied or reproduced in any form without the express permission of More4Kids Inc © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

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