• Pain killers administered at home may be effective as first aid
• Do not procrastinate seeking medical attention as sickness in children escalates fast
Most of the time, children are active and bubbly charmers. Unfortunately, illness does not discriminate based on age. When unwell, the spoken ones will express their discomfort, while the little ones will display a change in behaviour and mood. Parents should always trust their instincts regarding a child's health.
Most emergencies fall into the categories of breathing troubles, stomach upsets, injuries and infections. Those with known chronic conditions may be more likely to contract diseases. Health facilities operate 24-hour emergency rooms with qualified paediatric healthcare providers on standby. Do not procrastinate seeking medical attention as sickness in children escalates fast if not managed at its initial stages.
Breathing ailments constitute most children wheeled into emergency rooms, especially in the cold season. This could result from pneumonia, asthma or bronchiolitis. Signs of respiratory distress include rapid breathing, nasal flaring, sinking of the lower chest, lethargy, using more muscles to try to breathe, like straining the abdominal or neck muscles, wheezing and other abnormal breathing sounds.
Digestive complications are other common problems in children. Intestinal infections could be viral or bacterial, exhibiting symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain or constipation. It may also occur due to an undiagnosed food allergy or sensitivity. An infection could range from mild to severe. It is essential to treat the infection soonest possible to prevent the deterioration of the child's condition.
Trauma cases are frequent in emergency rooms as they occur during daily activities and can be moderate to severe. Some examples are injuries from a serious accident, falling off a bike, or one caused by sports. Traumas may include deep cuts, head injuries, concussions, sprained joints or broken bones. These require reviewing by a health specialist.
Infections can be viral, bacterial or fungal, ranging from mild to life-threatening. Some infections include ear infections, throat infections and exposed cuts. It is important to remember that any illness not treated properly can cause serious harm to the child.
Skin problems in children vary in symptoms and severity. Those requiring emergency treatment include pain, itching, inflammation (redness) and other discomforts. The reaction could be a result of a viral or bacterial infection, genetic factors or environmental exposure. Skin conditions like eczema sometimes create a conducive environment for another disease to enter the open skin.
Childhood emergencies may also be caused by environmental exposures, such as poisoning, burns, smoke inhalation, swimming accidents, traumas, or dehydration. It is often difficult to establish the cause of pain in children, which the little ones may not sufficiently describe. If the pain is persistent, seek immediate medical attention for a proper diagnosis. Pain may be in the chest, abdomen, head or other body parts. Pain killers administered at home may be effective as first aid. However, monitor the child's progress closely.
Consult your paediatrician if your child's illness worsens after the commencement of treatment or if you are worried about any new symptoms that develop after that. The doctor could recommend a change in treatment, depending on how the child responds to the medication.
By Dr Samuel Otido is a consultant paediatric pulmonologist and intensivist at Aga Khan University Hospital