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Common kid illnesses and trips to the ER: How to handle them

There it was. A sign in the daycare that read, "A child in daycare has been diagnosed with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Please watch your children closely for symptoms." Holy cow! What is that, who has it and how did they get it? I think I”ll quarantine my child.

Well, quarantining your child may be a bit drastic, as hand, foot and mouth disease is fairly common, very treatable and pretty typical for a winter illness. Such is the same for croup, rotavirus, strep, RSV and a few other viral illnesses that occur in children.

According to Dr. Olabisi Pearse, the lead physician at Children”s Healthcare of Atlanta”s Satellite Boulevard Immediate Care Center, the center sees two to three times more illnesses during the winter months.

So how do you know when it”s one of these viral illnesses and not just a winter cold?

Dr. Pearse says many illnesses may look like a cold, but then develop into something else. A cold typically lasts for seven to 10 days, but your child acts pretty normal, eating and drinking as they normally would, and continuing to be relatively playful. If their fever spikes, they aren”t eating and drinking or their breathing changes, it”s time to call the doctor.

The bottom line is to watch for fevers, monitor your child”s behavior and keep up with the duration of the illness to know if it”s more serious than a cold. And don”t forget about the nurse phone advice line. Many pediatrician offices have 24-hour nurse phone lines so you can talk to them and discuss your child”s symptoms before making a decision to dart to the ER at midnight.

Of course, it”s a lucky parent indeed that escapes an ER visit during childhood. Even in those cases, a little forethought can make your visit run smoother.

Nurse April Murphy, RN, with Gwinnett Medical Center”s Children”s Emergency Center, recommends that parents have the following information when they arrive:

  • Information About the Symptoms
    When did the symptoms begin? When did they worsen? Has your child had a fever?
  • Allergies
    A complete list of food and medication allergies will help the staff avert any dangerous, even deadly reactions during treatment.
  • Immunization History
    Know whether or not your child”s immunization record is current.
  • Medications
    In addition to having a complete list of current medications, have a list of medications your child may have been given for their symptoms in the last 24 hours.
  • Previous Diagnoses
    If your child has been under the care of a physician recently, be prepared to give the staff information about their diagnosis and treatment.
  • Complete Medical History
    A complete history would include previous hospitalizations, diagnosis of serious conditions of pneumonia or bronchitis, surgeries, ear tubes or recent physician visits.
  • Specialty Care
    If your child is under the care of a specialty physician, be sure to inform the staff.
  • Recent Injuries
    Knowing what recent injuries your child mayhave had in the last couple of weeks may help diagnose a larger problem.
  • Potential Exposures
    If your child has traveled, been out of the country or been exposed to an individual who may have had a highly contagious condition, like strep throat, the staff will need to know.