Jane considers her two-year-old son to be typical of children his age – lively with just enough dose of self-entertainment; he is a mother’s dream. So when one evening he slept earlier than usual, fending off his dinner, Jane dismissed it as extreme fatigue hoping a quick catnap would restore him back to his energetic self. However, he slept through the night and the better part of the morning.
Going with her gut feeling, Jane knew something was amiss and made a doctor’s appointment. Her instincts were not far off. Several hours later, she walked out of the hospital with a barrage of drugs as her doctor confirmed an infection. It is easy to nip infections in the bud when it comes to children – it only calls for keen observation on the following signs.
Decreased activity: Aside from unusually long naps, drowsiness and extreme calmness to the point of no activity fall into this category. Watch out for decreased eye contact, response to noises, movement and extreme need to cuddle. The higher a baby’s level of drowsiness, the higher the risk of a serious illness. While occasionally, children may go off solids, going off liquids such as water or milk, is a more dangerous sign, as opposed to normal appetite loss. Consult your paeditrician immediately.
Incessant crying: This is usually a baby’s way of responding to pain and a parent’s fastest and best tool in terms of determining underlying dangers in an infant. Watch out also for whimpers as they could indicate pain. If your child cries alot, listen for the difference in the cry. Is it high pitched? Have their gestures pitched? For instance, do they recoil while crying? Do they keep on tagging their ears or refuse to swallow food. These could be indicators of an ear, throat or stomach infection among other issues.
High temperature: Fevers are the body’s external indicators for internal anomalies. Most fevers tend to be harmless but higher temperatures, above 38 degrees Celsius (normal is between 36 and 37 degrees Celsius), warrant a visit to the doctor.
Unusual breathing: This involves difficulty in breathing, fast breathing, grunting while breathing, or if your child sucks in their stomach under their ribs while breathing. Unusual breathing can be a sign of many things including choking, pneumonia or an asthma attack.
Rashes: Most rashes are harmless. However, any rash that develops into blisters, followed by fever or vomiting, or occurs after giving medication or a new food, is an indication of an allergic reaction. Any rash that spreads fast could be an indicator of a more serious disease such as bacterial meningitis, which is characterised by reddish to purplish rashes. On darker skin, check on paler areas such as the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, on the tummy, inside the eyelids and on the roof of the mouth. You can also do the glass test. Press a transparent glass against the rashes. If the rashes appear clearly through the glass, then seek treatment.
Vomiting: Vomiting is common in children and often times is caused by a stomach bug. However, if your newborn vomits repeatedly and forcefully, especially after every feed, it could be an indicator of pyloric stenosis, a thickening of the valve muscle between the stomach and the small intestine. If the vomit is yellowish or greenish in colour, your child could be vomiting bile, a liver secretion, which could indicate a gastrointestinal obstruction. Vomiting accompanied by blood, rashes, fever and stiff neck are also good enough reasons to visit your paeditrician.
Convulsions: Convulsions are states of altered consciousness and can happen in different forms and ways (as covered in depth in the Child Clinic column in the January 2015 issue). A child can appear to be in a trance, body stiffening and becoming unresponsive or may have a fit with her limbs twitching and eyes rolling in the back of her head. Their cause range from fevers to diseases such as epilepsy but either way, consult a doctor once they occur for a correct diagnosis, especially if it is the first time it has occurred.
Published in November 2015