In the midst of flu season, it is important that parents can separate innocent sniffles from life-threatening illnesses. According to the experts on TODAY Parents, these are the top five symptoms that are potentially dangerous and might require parents to call the pediatrician or make a trip to the emergency room.

1. High fever-True, fevers are common occurrences in children when they are battling a cold or something routine. Yet, fevers can sometimes sneak up on you and approach dangerous levels.


“This is a reason to call their pediatrician right away — without any delay,” Dr. Lana Gagin, a pediatrician at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, told TODAY Parents. “Also if the elevated temperature lasts four or five days long, regardless of the child’s age, parents also need to call the doctor’s office.”

2. Difficulty breathing-Struggling to breathe through congestion as a result of a cold or allergies is sometimes normal. However, if children have shortness of breath or labored breathing, it’s time to make a call.

“If they’re panting faster, harder, that’s always a sign to get them checked out,” Dr. Sarah Bode, medical director of Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s school based health and mobile clinics, told TODAY Parents.

3. Dilated pupils-Kids are rough and tumble and a bump on their heads sometimes results in nothing more than a goose egg, but depending for some, it can be a lot worse, resulting in a concussion.

“If you had pupils that were not reacting or were dilated or different sizes that’s really a significant worrisome sign,” Dr. Bode said. Don’t wait for dilated pupils to seek medical attention.

4. Bruising in unusual places-Everyone gets bruised and sometimes don’t know where they came from. While bruising is normal, if parents notice that bruises are appearing on places that their kids don’t usually bruise, then it is time to put in a call to the pediatrician.

“If you have a child developing large bruises that are in places where they wouldn’t typically be running into things — so on the middle of their backs, their chests … and you’re not sure where it came from, that might be something you’d want to get checked out,” Dr. Bode told TODAY Parents.

5. Vomiting with rash or hives-Children and vomit go hand-in-hand, but if they start vomiting and it is accompanied by rash or hives, it could be an indication of something more serious.

“If the vomiting is accompanied by other changes that is when parents need to think about going to the doctor or going to the emergency room,” Dr. Bode said. “Some of the first signs and symptoms of a food allergy would be stomach pain and vomiting that’s coming out of nowhere and then accompanied by either some sort of facial swelling, itching or hives.”

Children will get sick, but be prepared and take note when their regular illnesses could potentially be something more. Make sure to have all doctor’s numbers, even after hours numbers, accessible quickly in an emergency situation. Better to always be safe than sorry.

Tiffany Silva

Tiffany Silva

Writer and Editor

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