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The top 5 signs your child's flu or cold needs to be treated in the emergency department now

Published on Thursday, January 17, 2019

The annual arrival of the flu season can put any parent on edge – wondering if there is something more behind a cough or if time will relieve a slight fever. Any loving parent would (and should) be concerned over suspected symptoms of the flu. 

But it begs the question, at what point do your child’s symptoms warrant a trip to the emergency room? And when is it safe to wait for the family doctor? 

“Parents are understandably on high alert during flu season,” says Dr. Brad Blaker, medical director of the McLaren Bay Region emergency department. “The flu and the common cold can sometimes have similar symptoms so it can be hard to tell. It’s important for parents to know what symptoms are safe to treat at home and which should not be ignored and require emergency care.”

Here are the top signs that you should not wait and head to the emergency room now:

A fever greater than 102.5 degrees 

As the body’s internal temperature elevates, so does the potential for brain damage. A temp of 102.5 is a cause for concern, while a fever becomes dangerous once it hits 104 degrees. 

Your child’s breathing has changed and become labored 

A change in your child’s breathing, whether they are taking shallow breathes or if the breathing has become labored, is a clear sign that they are not getting the oxygen they need.

Your child is not acting like their usual self 

A sudden change in your child’s demeanor is symptomatic of neurological changes, and can be a sign that an infection has progressed to a dangerous level. This includes any change in your child's condition or behavior that concern you as abnormal for their regular patterns.

There is a decrease in urination 

Keeping the body hydrated is vital to the immune system’s fight against infection by oxygenating the blood and helping flush the body’s system of toxins. A decrease in urination is a telltale sign of the body’s lack of proper hydration. 

Your child refuses to eat or drink 

A body fighting an infection (whether viral or bacterial) requires a lot of energy. Without a supply of energy from proper nutrition, the body’s immune system won’t have the energy it needs to fight the infection.

If your child’s cough or cold begins to exhibit any of these symptoms, take them to nearest emergency department for timely treatment.

Once you decide to take your child to the emergency room, the waiting room is the last place to want to be. To make this process easier, McLaren Bay Region offers online registration to help you check in to our ER from home and skip the wait. Just visit mclaren.org/bayregionER to get started, and the waiting room can be your living room.