Family Health and Wellness Guide

Checking Your Child’s Symptoms Online

Before you take inaccurate (or alarming) results to heart, read this.

By Adam Bluestein
Stethoscope, presciptions, and a jar of tongue depressorsEllen Silverman


Online worst case: Bacterial meningitis, lymphoma, leukemia.
The doctor says: Fevers are typically caused by a viral infection and are not serious. In toddlers and older children, temperatures of up to 104 degrees are usually not cause for worry.
How to treat: Give your child a proper dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen to make him more comfortable; encourage fluid consumption.
When to worry: A child under three months of age with a temperature (taken rectally) of 100.5 degrees or higher should see a doctor, as should any older child who looks bluish in color, has difficulty breathing, or is reluctant to drink or eat for several days. Painful urination and bad-smelling urine can indicate a urinary-tract infection. A prolonged fever with tiredness lasting more than two weeks can be one symptom of cancer.


Online worst case: Blood clots, meningitis, an abscess, a brain tumor.
The doctor says: Frequent headaches (once a month) are common in teens. Most headaches in school-age children are tension-related. They may also be caused by lack of sleep, allergies, eyestrain, poor nutrition, or dehydration. If your family has a history of migraines, your child may be suffering from them.
How to treat: Give her the appropriate dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen and make sure she drinks plenty of fluids. Resting in a dark room with a cool cloth on her forehead can help.
When to worry: If painful headaches wake your child at night; affect her coordination; are accompanied by nausea, vomiting, or a stiff neck; or get worse when she bends forward, coughs, or sneezes, they may signal pressure inside the head and a more dire diagnosis.
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