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Middlesex-London Health Unit

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When to Call the Doctor

Having a sick child is one of the most stressful times you will face as a parent. Babies and young children can’t always tell you when they aren’t feeling well. You know your child the best. Follow your instincts and trust yourself when you have a feeling you should call for help. Watching your child’s behaviour can usually let you know when something is wrong.

 

Watch your child’s behaviour for:

  • Changes in sleep (unusual waking up at night or sleeping more during the day)
  • Changes in cry (crying more or differently, not easily comforted)
  • Changes in eating (eating or drinking less, or refusing)
  • Changes in activity (no energy or interest for play, lethargic)
  • Changes in mood (clingy, whiny)
  • Watch your child’s physical symptoms, such as having a fever, a rash, or difficulty breathing.

Newborns (Birth to 2 weeks)

Call Your Doctor when your baby is: 

  • Having less than 4 wet diapers in 24 hours with infants and no urine for 8 hours in older kids
  • Is breastfeeding less than 8 times in 24 hours or is refusing to feed
  • Is having stool that is blackish/green after day 4 or 5 and/or it contains blood, pus, or mucous
  • Is having trouble swallowing breast milk1
  • Has gray-blue colouring around the mouth, lips or tongue when feeding or crying
  • Umbilical cord stump looks infected, such as having red skin around the base, especially if the red area gets bigger and/or has pus, blood or foul-smelling discharge from the cord stump itself
  • Has yellow skin or the whites of the eyes look yellow (jaundice)
  • Has a fever and is pale or flushed looking
  • Vomits repeatedly or has projectile (forceful) vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Has an inflamed or swollen eye or has discharge from the eye
  • Is coughing and/or whose breathing is noisy, such as grunting, hoarse sounding, or wheezy
  • Has purple patches on the skin or another type of rash
  • Has sunken eyes or a sunken soft spot on baby’s head (fontanelle) or area is bulging out
  • Is more quiet than usual, sleeping through typical feeding times or is limp 2 
 

Telephone Support

To speak with a Public Health Nurse from the Middlesex-London Health Unit, please call 519-663-5317.

  • Monday to Friday
  • 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Telephone questions after regular business hours

Call Telehealth Ontario to speak with a Registered Nurse at 1-866-797-0000; or TTY: 1-866-797-0007.

  • Free, confidential service you can call to get health advice or information
  • 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Available in English or French
 

Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers

Call Your Doctor when your child:

  • Under 6 months has a fever, or vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Shows signs of dehydration
  • Has bloody, black, or mucousy stools
  • Has a "barking" cough or any difficulty catching his breath
  • Has purple patches on the skin or another type of rash
  • Has pain or discomfort such as pulling or tugging at the ears2 (ear infections)
Trust your instincts. If you are concerned about your child, call Health Connection  to speak with a public health nurse.
 
Date of creation: December 12, 2012
Last modified on: February 8, 2017
 

References

1Best Start. (2009). Breastfeeding Your Baby Retrieved from
http://beststart.org/resources/breastfeeding/pdf/magneng.pdf
2About Kids Health. (2009). Babies: How Can You Tell if Your Baby is Ill? Retrieved from
http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/En/HealthAZ/DevelopmentalStages/Babies/Pages/Babies-How-Can-You-Tell-if-Your-Baby-Is-Ill.aspx
3Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. (2005). Healthy Beginnings: Your handbook for pregnancy and birth. 3rd ed. Ottawa, Ontario: Society of Obstetricians Publishers.