When to Call Your Child's Health Care Provider 

When your child complains of a sore throat, stomachache, or headache, you worry. You want to do whatever you can to help your child feel better quickly. Sometimes, you call your child's health care provider for advice and sometimes you call for an appointment. But, how do you know when you should care for your child at home and when you should call? Of course, if you are not sure, it is always OK to call. 

Guidelines for when to see the health care provider vary by a child's age. For example, a fever at a certain level may be reason to see the health care provider for a baby, but not for an older child. 

For babies: When to call

Call your health care provider if your baby has:

  • A fever of 100.4 °F (38°C) or higher in a baby under 3 months old (using a rectal thermometer)

  • A fever with other signs of illness

  • A fever lasting more than 24 hours

  • A fever that rises more than once to 104°F (40°C) or higher in a child of any age

  • Difficulty feeding or sucking or no interest in feeding

  • Sleeping too much or too little or having trouble getting your baby to wake up

  • Not moving much, or crying that is different than usual

  • Vomiting or diarrhea for more than a few hours

  • Changes in the baby's soft spot on the top of the head

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Rash on the skin

  • Skin that looks gray or blue or that is very pale

If your baby has any of the above warning signs or if you feel something isn't right, call his or her health care provider. 

For children: When to call

For infants and children older than 3 months, fever becomes less of a concern. You probably don't need to see a health care provider for a fever without other signs of illness.

Call the health care provider if your child has:

  • A fever that lasts longer than 24 hours in a child younger than 2, or a fever that lasts more than 3 days in a child age 2 or older 

  • A fever that rises more than once to 104°F (40°C) 

  • A fever that occurs after the child has become overheated, such as being in a hot room or car

  • A fever in a child who has a weakened immune system from a health condition or medication

  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren't really there)

  • A seizure

  • Stiffness of the neck, a really bad headache, ear pain, or pain in the stomach

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Swollen or sore joints

If your child is not feeling well, but doesn't have any of the above warning signs, he or she will most likely feel better with some extra rest, healthy drinks, and some additional cuddling. But if symptoms worsen or don't go away, or if your child isn't eating, playing, or drinking, call your child's health care provider. And remember to always follow your parenting instinct: If you feel something's wrong, you are probably right and should call the health care provider.