When to Call the Doctor

Should I call the doctor? It’s a dilemma for all parents. You?re not sure; you don?t want them to think you?re incompetent, but you certainly don?t want to take any risks. A good doctor will never think you are wasting his time, he will be glad to reassure you. And he will have faith (maybe more than you) in your maternal instinct. So the answer is if you are in any way concerned, seek help. But who to call? Maybe you just need advice, maybe an ambulance. The list of scenarios is practically endless, but as a general guideline:

CALL 999 if:

? You suspect meningitis or septicaemia ? this can kill within hours. First symptoms will usually be general unwellness, fever, vomiting, and headache. This may or may not be accompanied by a red rash. Check the rash by pressing a glass firmly against it; a septicaemia rash will not fade. Other signs include limb pain, cold hands and feet, confusion, neck stiffness, pale or mottled skin and dislike of bright lights. These are difficult to spot in a young baby or toddler, and may not be present in all cases. In tiny babies, the fontanelle (soft spot) on top of the head may bulge, and they will have an unusually high pitched, moaning cry. Toddlers may be unresponsive, refuse to eat, be floppy or movements may be jerky and stiff.

? Baby loses consciousness, even partially.

? Breathing is abnormal, with lips possibly going blue.

? Baby has a seizure, unless this has happened before and you have been taught how to deal with it. In this case, still call if you are worried.

? A child swallows something poisonous or medication not meant for him; take the substance with you to hospital.


? If a child has a cut that keeps bleeding, or appears deep.

? After a serious fall, even if all seems well.

? After a bad bump to the head, with or without bleeding or a bump.


? Baby has had diarrhoea for more than 12 hours.

? Temperature in a baby under 12 weeks is 38C? or more, over 12 weeks, 39C? or more

? Vomiting is very violent or has lasted more than 12 hours.

? Baby has a burn bigger than a 50p coin, especially if it is blistering.

? You notice blood in the vomit or in the nappy.

? Baby is pulling at one or both ears; this could be a sign of ear infection.

? There is an object lodged in baby’s mouth, ear, nose or vagina; toddlers can be very inquisitive and this is more common than you might think. Do not try to remove it yourself as you might make things worse.

? Baby has pink, sticky eyes, this could be conjunctivitis, which is very contagious and needs immediate treatment.

? There has been any discharge from ears, eyes, navel or genitals

? Baby has had a cough for more than 2 weeks.

? You suspect baby might be dehydrated. This might accompany a fever or a tummy bug, when fluids can be lost. Signs include a sunken fontanelle, dry lips, strong dark urine and fewer wet nappies, also if you pinch the skin gently it will not smooth out immediately. If you think baby is even mildly dehydrated, seek help.

If your GP surgery is closed do not hesitate to call the local out-of-hours service. It is important to remember that prompt action often means the difference between a baby who becomes very ill and one who recovers within hours. Babies do tend to go downhill fast but they also bounce back quickly, and you will find that quite often you will see a miraculous recovery by the time you reach the surgery. Do not feel bad about this, doctors are used to that happening and they will be only too glad that things are better.