Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I've been a mother for more than 3 years and I STILL don't know when to take my kids to the doctor.....

When my daughter was about 5 weeks old she got a cold (but I didn't know what it was). All I knew was the she had a slight fever (100), couldn't breath very well through her nose, and she was pretty sleepy all day. I ended up taking her into the doctor. Guess what he said? "She is just fine, mom is worrying a bit too much." Let me tell you.... I felt SO DUMB.

Since that time I haven't taken her to the doctor when she is sick except for on rare occasions. When my baby son was born a year ago both of them got a bout of something pretty nasty (but their fevers were not high). I ended up taking both of them in and my doctor said it was probably RSV, but that it wasn't too severe and that I was doing all the right things. Again.... another trip wasted.

My only REAL successful visit to the doctor was the time when at 6 months my daughter pulled her elbow out of socket and the doctor fixed it in a trice. But that was necessary, since I had no idea what was wrong with her.

Well a few weeks ago my son got a mysteriously high fever. It was 102! Which may not seem high to some, but the highest my ear thermometer has ever been is 101... and even THAT was rare. My kids just don't get high fevers. But 102 alarmed me a bit. At one point it was even verging on 103. But he had NO other symptoms. He was sleepy and grouchy, but he had no vomiting, no runny nose or cold symptoms, and nothing else to give me a clue as to what was wrong. I again asked myself.... when do I take my children to the doctor?

I didn't take him that day because Tylenol brought his fever down very quickly and as long as I kept on top of the Tylenol his fever hovered around 99-100 which in my mind is not hardly even a fever. After the first day we never saw his temperature rise about 101. And in a few days it was gone, plus no one else in the family got sick at all. I never took him to the doctor and I still wonder what was wrong with him - but he is just fine.

We also don't have very good insurance. So taking the kids to see the doctor is an expensive affair. Perhaps my unwillingness to take my kids in has something to do with the money. Not that I wouldn't spend HUNDREDS of dollars to see my kids well (come on, thousands even). But I hate to waste $100 when the doctor is just going to say, "oh, it looks like a cold." Or "oh, it is a flu, but there is nothing we can do for you."

In the past we have talked about how to get kids well or how to keep them from getting sick. But we've never addressed this topic that really worries me. WHEN DO YOU TAKE YOUR KIDS INTO THE DOCTOR?

I don't want to be negligent, but I also don't want to be rushing into the doctor's office at every sign of a sniffle and wasting time and money. I'd really like some help on this one.

I apologize for the length of this post, but I would appreciate any advice you have.


Universitybabe said...

This is a big questions I often face. Do I take them in or is extra TLC, fluids and tylenol enough. I have called my mom (EMT cetrified as well as mother to 10) many a time and said "Mom, what is the dr. going to tell me?" That often does the trick for me. For things that I get really concerned about I start keeping a log so that when I go in to the dr. they don't just send me home wasting time and money to try things I knew they would want me to try. Fevers are the big one but they say that if it comes down with tylenol that a fever can go as long as three days before a dr. needs to see them. Other than the fever a dr. is going to ask about diapers--mostly wanting to know about fluid levels. pinch your childs skin softly--do the capilaries fill really fast and return to normal color or are they slow to return to the natural color from the white of the gentle pinch? Unless my childs behavior has changed and they have become unresponsive or latharagic I just pray to Heavenly Father telling him I am watching for these signs... and that if I am missing something I am counting on his help to figure it out because this child was his child to begin with. Trust your gut-- one of my sons broke a leg but there was no real evidence yet I just couldn't let it pass till I took him in. All kinds of things give children's bodies trouble. Teething just last week sent my 8mo old into a 3 day fever that came and went with tylenol--no other symptoms. Good luck, I will be watching to see what others say.

Erin said...

I usually try to just ride it out if they get colds, but there have been a few times I have called the doctor. A few times when Hayden was younger I took him in because he had ear infections. I can't remember what gave me the clue that it was an ear infection other than his fever was lasting a few days and he was tugging at his ears. Once I waited too long and he ended up with a double ear infection, a horrible rash from diarrhea, and was dehydrated. When he got older he told me that his ears hurt, so I took him in then.

I also took him in once when he fell and hit his head, and got knocked out for a second. Head injuries always make me nervous, but your doctor's office can tell you if there is anything to watch for and if they think your child needs to be seen.

I took Halle in when she was sick and so congested that she would stop breathing, and then would end up vomiting just to clear her airway - this turned out to be RSV.

Things I watch for are lethargy (meaning more than just tired but limp and not really moving), less wet diapers meaning dehydration,trouble breathing, and the length of the sickness. If it lasts more than a week I will call in.

All of these times I was glad I took them in. I know I tend to err more on the side of caution, but I don't feel bad if I took them in and it was nothing. I think I would feel a lot worse if I took them in too late and could have given them some relief earlier. I guess I care more about how my kids feel than if the doctor thinks I'm silly because I worry so much (not to say that anyone is not putting their kids first, because I understand not wanting to waste time and money).

I often like to call the doctor's office and ask to talk to a nurse. I explain the problem and ask them if they think I should bring the kid in. She might ask more questions like how long have they had the fever, any other symptoms. If they don't really know, they will ask the doctor what they think and get back to you. I actually do this a lot and think it's the most helpful way to decide. They will usually also tell you something you can do if they don't need to be seen by the doctor.

I understand the insurance problem. We used to have great insurance, so I would take them in whenever they needed it. Now i find myself waiting a little longer to see if we can ride it out.

Jessie said...

I am like Erin--I call and talk to a nurse regularly. Our insurance is also pretty crappy, so I hate taking them in when there's no need to, and the nurses can often tell me what to watch for.

If I still feel like things are severe enough, though, I will take my children in. My kids seem prone to ear infections and both have asthma, so often even just a cold will lead to needing either an asthma treatment plan, or antibiotics for ear infections. My kids have never gotten to the lethargic state--even when they're sick, they often will show no signs of slowing down. I just have to watch for their own signs--chest retractions with breathing, any sort of tugging at their ears, etc. I honestly believe that parents know their children best, and if we think something is severely wrong, most often, we're right.

Which brings me to one last thing--if your pediatrician is making you feel bad for bringing your child in, I would seriously consider finding one you are more comfortable with. In our pediatrician's office, there are at least 10 doctors. We've seen most of them (like I said, we've really done the ear infection bit... tubes and all), and I can honestly say that none of them are as good as ours--he doesn't validate me unjustifiably, but he does realize that I know my kids the best of anyone, and honestly listens and responds to my concerns. Many of the other doctors we see give me the same feeling you've gotten--like you did something because you're an overanxious mom or whatever--I HATE that. I honestly don't take my kids in unless I see a problem that really concerns me, and they should take that seriously, in my opinion. Granted, I won't just take them in for a few sniffles or whatever, but seriously--if I'm willing to pay them for our time, they should be willing to make certain everything is ok without making me feel like I'm incompetent.

Just my 2 cents.

Alyssa Harper said...

My dad (who's a doctor) says to go if:

1. A fever (higher than 100.4 degrees F) for more than 3-4 days. If the infant is under 3 months, go immediately. If the infant is under 2 years and there are no other symptoms, take them in to check for urinary tract infection.

2. Cough for more than 2 weeks

3. PERSISTENT vomiting or diarrhea.

4. Cold/respiratory infection for more than 10 days.

5. Intense, specific systems like ear pain, throat pain, chest pain.

I usually call the office ahead, give the nurse a run-down of the symptoms and ask if I should come in. Usually they tell me no. I guess I'm just a paranoid mom, but I just have to check and make sure.

Megan said...

I usually call and talk to the nurse before taking my son to the doctor. She generally can tell me if I need to bring Lucas in or if it's something we just have to wait out. On the other hand, if it is something that I really am worried about I will take Lucas to the doctor.

Things I watch for are lethargy, wetness of diapers, and breathing problems. My family tends to have issues with winter asthma, so if I have any questions on that, I take Lucas in to be seen. On the fever, I know Budge Clinic usually says that if the fever is 102 and last for 3 days to bring the child in to be seen by a doctor.

On The Go Family said...

Ditto on the nurse line. It's such a big help to us.

My other big red flags are prolonged fever PLUS lethargic behavior. If the kid's just not acting like him or herself for a long period of time, this usually clues me in that it's more than the cold or flu.

As the daughter of an ENT, another big red flag he always looks for is green/yellow snot. It isn't always the case, but often when the snot changes from clear to green or yellow and stays this way for a prolonged period of time, it's an indictation that a viral infection has turned bacterial. (p.s. Sometimes the first snot in the morning will be green because it was sitting in the child's nasal passage all night; wait 'til later in the day to use the yellow/green test.)

Jennifer said...

yep! these are smart people!
Calling the nurse is the best thing, really! And if it is the middle of the night, you can always call your doctors office, and a recording will give the doctor on call to call. :)
And I totally agree with Jessie. If your doctor makes you feel bad for bringing your kids in, Switch!! I was lucky to get a great doctor who no matter what has never told me that! Even when it was nothing, he said, better be safe then sorry! You are a mom, you worry. :) I hope you can figure things out! :)

Raylynk said...

I feel the same way:) The doctor has never said anything to make me feel stupid, but I sit and worry if I go and it's nothing about how stupid I would feel. has some good tips on fevers and otehr symptoms and when you should call. As everybody else said the nurse is a great resource!

Tannie Datwyler said...

Yeah, I'll clarify with the doctor making me feel stupid thing. I LOVE my pediatrician and she has NEVER made me feel stupid. NEVER!! :) It isn't her, it's me feeling dumb that I bring my kids in for nothing.

Thank you so much for all the ideas - I LOVE it!!!

Jared and Delia said...

I think this is something that you can never pin down just right - at least I haven't yet either. My son had a very mild but persistent cough. I thought it was just a cold, but as I read him books and things got quiet I heard a very slight wheeze to his breathing. THere was no fever or runny nose...just a little cough and that wheezing. I couldn't shake the worry over that and I brought him into the instacare since it was a holiday and everywhere else was closed. The nurses and the doctor really seemed doubtful about his condition being severe enough justifying me bringing him in. Even I felt doubtful, I just couldn't rest until I was sure though. When the X-ray came back...he had pnemonia! On the other hand...just this week I brought him in with different results. He has started to wet the bed (after being trained for a year) and had a few days of having a hard time making it to the bathroom during the day too. He then started saying his side hurt (by his kidney). So...I am thinking infection of some kind by that time. We take him in and he is diagnosed with eurenesis(sp?) which just means he wets the bed and may not produce enough diurectic (sp?) hormone to keep him from wetting the bed as he sleeps which CAN crop up even if he was once trained at night...who knew? Not me. No treatment, just put him in pull-ups. So...I felt like...what a waste? But on the flip side...can you put a price on peace knowing your child is okay or got the help he needed? It is so tough. And... a word about the nurses. Sometimes they are trigger happy. They tell me to come in almost all the time and it ends up being nothing. So...

Jes said...

I usually wait a day or so if it seems to be something minor like a cold or etc... but if Im ever remotely not sure or have a bad feeling I call the Dr and talk to his nurse! I LOVE that they do that... though theyre probably tired of me! *wink*
YOu can call and just talk to the nurse, she gives advice, and often directly asks the Dr for you :)
Hope that helps a little...

Ben and Shauna said...

This has been a great post to read about, because I've felt this way several times. And still do. I think sometimes, it depends on your child, and learning how they react to different sicknesses. For example, my little boy had several ear infections, to the extent of needing tubes. Everytime he'd get a fever, of like 103, I KNEW it was another ear infection, because even when teething, he never got fevers, only with infections. Unfortunately, when it is, you HAVE to go in, to get the antibiotic, even though I was 99% sure, and just wanted them to call in a prescription, (they obviously can't do that) and it was, everytime. So I thought I had it all figured out. But with my little girl, she had a slight fever, like 99, so I thought it was just a cold, then a couple days later, she would wake up every 2 hours, which gave me the clue, something was up. It turned into both ears infected. What!?! So my point...(sorry I'm rambling)Not all the symptoms are the same with each child.(in my experience) Which is why just us as mother's, to tune into your 'mother instincts' you know your children the best, and know when something is wrong. Even when talking to nurses, they would always just tell me, to bring them in. So for me, that never helped too much. So now, with fevers,(that's really my only experience so far.) I wait 24 hours, if it's higher that 101 it's not teething.(that's what they've told me to do) So just gauge it that way, and with what my gut instincts tell me. Good all of us moms! ;)