When Do These Common Kid Symptoms Warrant a Trip to the Doctor?

September 11, 2020
Mercy Medical Center - Baltimore, MD

Parents often struggle with when to take their child to the doctor and when to wait a situation out. This is especially true during this time of pandemic, as families try to avoid unnecessary exposure to COVID-19. Board certified pediatrician Dr. Ashanti Woods recently shared his thoughts with FORBES magazine regarding certain common childhood symptoms and complaints that should no longer be managed at home and warrant a visit to the doctor, such as fever, rash, and headache:

1. Fever – Fever is a temperature of 100.4 or greater. It is a sign that the body’s immune system is active and this is traditionally in response to an infection. However, other conditions can cause the temperature to be elevated such as teething or simply being in a warm room or environment for too long. Fever can be managed at home with a weight-appropriate dose of Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Motrin), known as fever reducers. Fevers that should be evaluated in the doctor’s office are those that persists despite having given multiple doses of fever reducers. Fevers where a parent can skip the doctor’s office and head straight to the emergency department are high (103F +) or prolonged fevers that cause altered mental status (child is not themselves mentally) or fevers that cause seizures (most frequently seen in a condition called Febrile Seizures or in Meningitis).   

2. Rash – Rashes are usually due to something internal (caused by something we’ve ingested or taking place inside our body) or something external (something coming in contact with the skin from the outside). Many rashes need no treatment and will go away on their own (self-limited). Safe medicines in most cases to apply to most rashes are triple antibiotic cream or ointment such as a NeoSporin or Bacitracin that may be found in a FirstAid kit or Hydrocortisone or Benadryl cream. The first two creams (NeoSporin and Bacitracin) treat infectious causes for rash, where the latter two treat allergic and irritant causes for rash.   If the rash does not respond to doing nothing, or after application of the aforementioned creams, a call to the doctor is warranted. Rash causing high fever (103F or above), peeling of the skin similar to a burn, or that is associated with bone pain should be evaluated in the ER.  

3. Headache – Frequently due to dehydration – often treated with increasing water intake, improving diet (such as eating breakfast and lunch), rest, and sometimes with a pain reliever like Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen. Sometimes a vision check or even seasonal allergy medicine may do the trick. If no improvement, a family should start a headache diary where they document the location of pain specifically, frequency, length, and activity being performed when the headache started. Headaches that are the “worst headache of my life” should be evaluated in the ER. 

--Ashanti W. Woods, M.D.

Dr. Ashanti Woods specializes in General Pediatrics at Mercy Family Care Physicians in Baltimore, MD. He offers a wide spectrum of pediatric care for newborns through adolescents. 

Dan Collins - Senior Director of Media Relations at Mercy Medical Center

Dan Collins, Senior Director of Media Relations

Email: dcollins@mdmercy.com Office: 410-332-9714 Cell: 410-375-7342

About Mercy

Founded in 1874 in downtown Baltimore by the Sisters of Mercy, Mercy Medical Center is a 183-licensed bed acute care university-affiliated teaching hospital. Mercy has been recognized as a top Maryland hospital by U.S. News & World Report; a Top 100 hospital for Women’s Health & Orthopedics by Healthgrades; is currently A-rated for Hospital Safety (Leapfrog Group), and is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a Magnet Hospital. Mercy Medical Center is part of Mercy Health Services (MHS), the parent of Mercy’s primary care and specialty care physician enterprise, known as Mercy Personal Physicians, which employs more than 200 providers with locations in Baltimore, Lutherville, Overlea, Glen Burnie, Columbia and Reisterstown. For more information about Mercy, visit www.mdmercy.com, MDMercyMedia on FacebookTwitter, or call 1-800-MD-Mercy.

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