When Your Toddler Is Sick

Learn how to prepare yourself for talking to your pediatrician about your sick child.

Whenever you call your pediatrician for a consultation about your child's illness, she will need certain information. You will need to describe the symptom(s), when the symptoms first appeared, the order in which they appeared, and their severity. Your doctor will also want to be reminded of your child's age, weight, and medical history, and any allergies. You may also want to have your pharmacy's telephone number on hand so that the doctor can call in a prescription, if necessary. If you have any specific questions, it might be a good idea to write them down before you call so that you don't hang up and then realize you forgot to ask an important question.

Take your child's temperature before you call and let your doctor know if your child has a fever and what kind of thermometer you used to take her temperature. You can take your child's temperature in a variety of ways:

  • In just over a minute, rectal thermometers yield the most accurate recording of your toddler's core temperature.
  • You also can place a rectal thermometer under your child's armpit and get an accurate axillary temperature (usually about one to two degrees lower than the rectal temperature).
  • If your child can keep her mouth closed, you can take her temperature orally with a digital thermometer. (Using a mercury thermometer for an oral reading is never a good idea at this age, because your toddler might bite down on it too hard and end up with a mouthful of glass and poisonous mercury.)
  • Or you can shell out $60-75 to buy the latest home medical gadget: a tympanic thermometer that you place in your child's ear for just one second.

In many cases, of course, your doctor will want to see your child in person before making a diagnosis or writing a prescription. During an office visit, be sure to ask any questions that occur to you when your doctor diagnoses your child. If you think of others after you get home, call and ask them over the phone. It's important that you understand what your pediatrician has told you about your child's health and any medications she may have prescribed, so don't be afraid to ask questions. (If you have questions before you go, it's a good idea to write them down so that you won't forget to ask them after you reach the office.)

If your doctor prescribes any medication for your toddler's illness, for example, ask your pediatrician or pharmacist whether it should be given on a full or empty stomach. You'll also want to know how often and how long your child should take the medicine and how soon to expect improvement. You also may find it helpful to know about any possible side effects in advance.

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