Child not feeling well? Consider the 72 hour rule

All children get sick at one point in time or another. Some illnesses have to be treated right away while others are questionable. In those times of questioning, consider trying the 72 hour rule.

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Most minor cuts, rashes, coughs and slight fevers can be handled safely at home and with over the counter medications, if needed. If your child has a virus, food poisoning or other mild illness, the symptoms typically dissipate within 72 hours. We all know how expensive and time consuming it is to rush to the doctor with every sniffle. But when should you be concerned?

Here are a few warning signs that warrant immediate medical attention:

  • High or persistent fever of 104°F
  • Any breathing problems, such as fast, labored or noisy breathing from the chest
  • Persistent pain such as an earache, sore throat, severe headache or stomach ache
  • Eye discharge that is thick, sticks the eyelids shut, and doesn't get better during the next day
  • Uncontrollable vomiting for more than 12 hours
  • Extreme pain that gets worse over time
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • A loss of control of the arm, leg, or other part of the body
  • Stiff neck
  • Yellow hue to skin or eyes
  • Blue, purple or grayish appearance of skin or lip
  • Blurred vision
  • Inability to walk normally
  • Throwing up blood
  • Blood or mucous in the stool
  • Painful urination
  • Fast and developing rash over most of the body
  • Loosened or knocked out teeth
  • Any symptoms of illness in an infant under 1 year of age

Otherwise the 72 hour rule applies. During that time, carefully note the physical symptoms of the illness, take the child's temperature regularly, and convince them to drink plenty of water and herbal tea. Fresh, uncooked fruits and vegetables are the best source of nutrients and multi-vitamins with high doses of vitamin C. Avoid anything with sugar (even juices). If the illness is caused by a bacterial infection, it will feed off the sweetness. If there is any nausea or vomiting, the BRAT diet of bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast usually does the trick. Lastly, make sure you do not overreact. There is nothing more distressing to a sick child then a freaked out parent.

Want to learn more? A wonderful flow-chart on how to respond to everything from allergic reactions and asthma attacks to tetanus, ticks and vomiting has been created by the Missouri Department of Health. When in doubt, however, contact your doctor or urgent care center.

Go to the ER if...

Woman's Day magazine, August 2010 offered this guidance for when to go to the Emergency Room:

Potential Poisoning (includes vitamins, detergents, etc.): If more than a few sips or pills are swallowed get immediate medical attention. Otherwise call Poison Control at 800-222-1222.

Cuts: If blood is gushing and shows no sign of slowing - or if child is losing consciousness get immediate medical attention. Otherwise, apply pressure for 10 minutes. If does not stop or the cut looks deep, contact doctor.

Fever: If of 105°F or higher or for infants (under 2 months) with fever of 1005°F or higher get immediate medical attention. Fever is usually a sign that the body is fighting an infection. Have child lie down and apply cool compress or ice bag covered with cloth or paper towel to forehead for 30 minutes. If fever has not subsided, call doctor.

Bump: If child fainted, shows unusual behavior, dizziness, vision problems or has severe headache get immediate medical attention. Otherwise, give children's Tylenol or Motrin, apply ice pack wrapped in cloth and call doctor.

Broken bone: If bone protrudes from skin, arm, wrist or leg is bent oddly, pain is in one spot or can not hold weight, or pain is extreme get immediate medical attention. Otherwise, give children's Tylenol or Motrin, apply ice pack wrapped in cloth and monitor for 20-48 hours.

Burns: If large area is affected get immediate medical attention. Otherwise, run under cold water, give children's Tylenol or Motrin, apply antibiotic ointment and bandage. If severe blisters appear, call doctor.

Sources (accessed October 8, 2011):

Your Familys Health: Kids Health

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