Have you found yourself spending more time at the doctor’s surgery since having a child? Our immune systems aren’t fully developed until around seven or eight years of age, so it’s inevitable your child will come down with common minor illnesses in their first few years of life. Not to fret – with some knowledge and planning, you can be better prepared for what to do when your little one gets sick, helping to give you peace of mind that they’re well looked after.
Common firsts: colds and fever
Watching your child go through their first cold can be hard, and while there’s no specific cure, there are some things you can do to help them through this uncomfortable part of growing up:
- Keep them hydrated with breast milk for babies, or water and clear liquids for older children.
- Try saline nasal drops – these can ease the discomfort of a blocked nose and help loosen thick nasal mucus.
- Paracetamol can be given in recommended doses for their age and weight, but it can be harmful in large doses or if given more often than four times in a 24-hour period.
- Avoid using cough medicines and decongestants – these haven’t been shown to be effective for children under six years of age, and some can even have side effects such as rapid heart rate, jitteriness and insomnia.
If your child has a fever (a temperature of 38.5 oC) it’s often an indication of the body’s natural response to an infection, such as a viral chest infection and an ear infection, and it should return to normal when the cause of the fever has gone or been treated.
When to call the doctor
There are some clues that suggest you may need to seek further medical help and advice, whether from your GP or the local hospital. Some signs that you should call or organise a doctor visit include if your child seems very unwell; reports pain that isn’t relieved by paracetamol; has a rash or difficulty breathing; refuses to eat or drink; is vomiting; has a fever that isn’t going away or is getting worse; has a fever and is under 3 months old; is less alert and/or active than usual; looks paler than usual or has a blue tinge to their skin, and has cold hands or feet; has trouble urinating or is constipated.
Remember, you know your child best so trust your instincts – if you think you should contact the doctor or get help, do so.
When to seek urgent medical attention
If you child displays the following symptoms, call 000 or take them to the nearest emergency department:
- vomits green fluid
- has a convulsion
- has a lump in the groin area
- stops breathing for more than 15 seconds
- is bleeding profusely
- has a head injury
- is unresponsive
- has large cuts or burns
- has bloody urine and bloody or persistent diarrhoea
- complains of a stiff neck or light hurting their eyes.
Care around the clock
As a parent, your child’s health is one of your main priorities, so it’s important that you choose a trusted and capable doctor who you and your child feel comfortable with. However, your doctor may not be available at all times. That’s where the National Home Doctor Service (NHDS) could help. The NHDS is Australia’s largest network of doctors who make bulk-billed, after hours home visits.
If you’re a Bupa health insurance member, you now have access to After Hours Plus from NHDS. This means when you book an after-hours, bulk billed home visit, the doctor can provide common medications on the spot, at no charge to you. For more information, visit bupa.com.au/afterhoursplus