Common Childhood Symptoms

ABDOMINAL
PAIN

Any type or intensity of abdominal pain
can be mild or serious. The chances of your child having an appendicitis under the age of
five is uncommon, but should be suspected in any young child with pain in the abdomen,
especially when accompanied by nausea, vomiting and fever. If your child has abdominal
pain, do not administer any medications (including laxatives), and do not give him any
solid foods until he is well. If the pain is mild but recurrent, or if it is intense and
fails to subside within several hours, contact his doctor for further advice and possible
evaluation.

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CONSTIPATION

Constipation is rare in breastfed infants
and is seldom serious in any child. Remember that it isn’t unusual for kids to be very
vocal and expressive during a bowel movement. They may grunt and turn quite red in the
face. An occasional hard stool for even a day or two without a stool should be ignored if
your child seems happy and well. However, if he is irritable, complains of pain or has
blood in his stools, he may not have enough fiber in his diet. If he is an infant, try
adding more fruit t his solid food regimen. If he is of toddler age or older, bran cereal
may suffice. Constipation may also be caused by an anal fissure (making it painful for him
to pass a stool) or prolonged spells of inactivity. Rarely, constipation may be a sign of
some underlying serious medical condition. If conservative treatment on your part fails,
or if your child has severe abdominal pain or blood in his stools, you should seek the
advice of his doctor. Never give him enemas or laxatives.

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COUGH/CROUP

A cough can be due to several things,
including allergies and respiratory infections. If your child is without fever or doesn’t
appear particularly ill, you can treat him with a vaporizer or humidifier, increase his
fluid intake and with the approval of doctor, give him certain cough medications. If your
child is over six months old, you might want to eliminate dairy products from his diet
until he is well, because these are known to increase mucus production. If the couch is
croupy in nature, sit with him in a steamy room like a closed bathroom with a hot shower
running. Croup is generally caused by a viral infection of the larynx and causes a classic
“crowing” sound on inhalation.

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DIARRHOEA

Infants under the age of six months
commonly have runny stools with no apparent illness, especially if they are breastfed. A
child over six months old with the sudden onset of diarrhoea may have some sort of
gastrointestinal infection. The most common cause is a viral infection, but other causes
include teething, sensitivity to food in his diet, antibiotic treatment and other
illnesses. If your child has frequent or prolonged vomiting and/or fever with the
diarrhoea, if the diarrhoea lasts more than 24 hours or if he has bloody stools, you
should notify his doctor at once.  Otherwise, increase his intake of clear liquids to
at least 2 ounces per hour. It may help if can include an electrolyte-rich fluid like
Pedialyte, resol or lytren. Once the diarrhoea subsides, place your child on a bland diet
for two to three days. Never give him anti-diarrhoeals without the prior approval of his
doctor, because in some cases, this can prolong the illness.

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FEVER

No parent can expect to let a childhood
squeak by without this symptom rearing its ugly head from time to time. It may accompany
other symptoms of an infection or it may occur alone. If your child is less than two
months old and has fever, you must contact his doctor immediately. A child older than two
months old with a fever needs immediate medical attention if the fever is greater than or
equal to 105° rectally, if he is crying inconsolably, has a convulsion, a stiff neck,
difficulty breathing or seems unusually lethargic. Otherwise if your child has a fever of
more than 24 hours duration without the prior approval of his doctor, call his doctor
during regular office hours.

The treatment for fever is rather
straightforward. You’ll need to make sure your child is not overdressed or covered heavy
bed linens, is fed adequate calories and is given ample fluids (at least 2 ounces hourly).
A tepid water sponge bath should be given if your child’s fever is higher than 101°
Fahrenheit, but make sure that the water is splashed on his skin and allowed to evaporate
to ensure the highest possible rate of heat loss. Continue the sponge bath until he begins
to shiver or his temperature is below 101° Fahrenheit rectally. If he is older than 6
months old, it’s O.K. to give him some acetaminophenas per the following dosage chart. If
he is younger than 6 months, it’s best to contact his doctor first. Avoid aspirin unless
his doctor recommends otherwise, because brain damage from Rene’s syndrome can occur in
some children who have taken aspirin products while they have certain viral illnesses like
chicken pox and influenza.

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ACETAMINOPHEN CHART

Age Weight Drops
80mg/0.08ml
5ml
Elixir
160mg
Chewable
Tables
80mg Tabs

0-3 mos.

6-11 lbs. 0.4 ml

4-11 mos.

12-17 lbs. 0.8 ml ½ tsp. 1 tab.

12-23 mos.

18-23 lbs. 1.2 ml ¾ tsp. 1½ tab.

2-3 yrs.

24-35 lbs. 1.6 ml 1 tsp. 2 tabs.

4-5 yrs.

36-47 lbs. 2.4 ml 1½ tsp. 3 tabs.

Note:
Give the appropriate dose every 4 hours as needed, no more than 5 doses in 24 hour
period.

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UPPER LIMITS OF NORMAL TEMPERATURE

Method Time 3 yrs. or younger Over 3 yrs.

Rectal Temp.

2 Min.

100.2 F (37.9 C) 100 F (27.8 C)
Oral Temp.

2 Min.

99.5 F (37.5 C) 99 F (37.2 C)

Axillary temperatures
should be about one degree less than the oral temperature.

Recently, experts advocate relying on
axillary or tympanic membrane (eardrum) temperatures in infants, because of the small risk
of rectal perforation and the discomfort that can be caused with the improper use of a
rectal thermometer. A special digital thermometer for the measurement of the tympanic
membrane temperature can be found in many pharmacies and department stores for the hefty
sum of about $120.00. Do not put ANY other type of thermometer into your child’s ear!

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FEBRILE
SEIZURES

Febrile seizures or fever convulsions are
most common between the ages of 1 and 2 years, affects 3% of all children and are often
familial. They usually look a great deal scarier than they really are. They are typically
precipitated by an abrupt rise in body temperature and are not as strongly related the
degree of elevation as to the rate of rise of the temperature. If your child has a febrile
seizure, try to remain calm. Place him on a soft surface (like a bed or carpet) or in your
arms with his head lower than the rest of his body. Turn his head to the side so he will
not aspirate if he vomits. Remove anything from his mouth, like pacifiers, etc., and don’t
try to insert anything in an attempt to prevent him from “biting his tongue”.
You should not try feeding, sponge-bathing or restraining him. If the seizure lasts longer
than 5 minutes, call 911 0r your local emergency telephone number. After the seizure ends,
your child will probably be very sleepy. Allow him to sleep propped up on his side, and
call his doctor.

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ITCHING

Itchy skin can be caused by a number of
different conditions, many of which are described in the next section. Soothing approaches
include calamine lotion, oatmeal or cornstarch colloidal baths, a comfortably hot or tepid
water bath and, if prescribed oral antihitamines. Itching can be exacerbated if your child
continues to scratch, try to keep his nails trimmed short, keep his hands clean, and
consider putting socks, gloves or mittens on his hands at night to prevent him from
scratching in his sleep.

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NASAL
CONGESTION

Nasal congestion is most commonly
allergies or common cold. Treatment includes a steam or cool mist vaporizer, salt water
nasal sprays, nasal aspiration, increased fluid intake, elevation of the head and if
advised by his doctor, oral decongestants. If the nasal discharge becomes dark yellow or
green or is associated with fever, your child may have a sinus infection requiring
antibiotics. Untreated nasal congestion is commonly followed by a middle ear infection
(otitis media), so prompt treatment and encouraging your older child to blow instead of
sniff may be a key to avoiding a sleepless night.

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SORE
THROAT

A sore throat from tonsillitis, strep
throat and other illnesses can be soothed with salt-water gargles in older children. Cool,
non-acidic beverages or Popsicle’s can be substituted in children who are too young to
gargle. See more on tonsillitis and strep throat under Common diseases.

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TEETHING
PAIN

This symptoms makes most parents wish
their kid’s teeth would spout all at once within a few days, so that they can hand him
over to a friend or relative and ship off to Bermuda until it’s over. If you are not
lucky, try massaging his gums with your finger or letting him gnaw on cold carrot or
zucchini strips, a cold bagel cut in half or a soft rubber teething ring that has been
chilled first. I all these else fails, a dose of acetaminophen may be needed.

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VOMITING

If your child repeatedly vomits in a
projectile fashion without appearing ill from additional symptoms like fever or diarrhoea
or if he does have a concomitant viral illness but continues to vomit more than once an
hour or for more than 24 hours, call his doctor for advice. Otherwise, stop all solid
foods and begin a regimen of clear liquids in frequent small sips. Start out with a
teaspoon every half-hour and increase to two ounces hourly if possible. If your cannot
tolerate from a cup, try offering him a Popsicle. If possible, give him liquids that are
rich in electrolytes like broth’s, Gatorade, or commercially prepared fluids like
Pedialite, Resol, Lytren. If your child is over 6 months old, discontinue dairy products
until he is well. Once the vomiting stops, place him on a bland diet for two or three days
before reverting back to his usual routine.