Six signs that indicate when to see the doctor for a cold
If your child doesn’t really fit into any of the four complications of a cold, and you still aren’t sure if or when to see the doctor for a cold, here are 6 signs to watch for:
1. Temperature and length of fever.
Fever greater than 103 for more than 3 days, or fever greater than 101 for more than 5 days. Remember, it is normal for a cold virus to cause fever through 5 days. However, if your child keeps getting fevers more than 103 for more than 3 days, it would be prudent to take him to the doctor to be sure there are no bacterial complications yet. It could still just be the cold virus, but it is better not to go more than 3 days with such a high fever without seeing a doctor. See fevers for a detailed discussion on evaluation and treatment.
2. Unusual lethargy and irritability.
Especially in infants. Lethargy means more than just not wanting to run around and play. It means your child can’t make eye contact or is unable to focus on you or doesn’t respond to your voice. She simply lies on your lap limp and lifeless with her eyes barely open.
3. Ear infections.
Your child has a history of frequent ear infections.
4. Moderate to severe ear pain.
Remember, infants and young children may tug at their ears simply due to ear congestion, not infection. See ear pain for info on how to treat ear pain overnight.
5. Overall acting sick.
If you have a gut feeling that you child is unusually sick, take him to the doctor.
This does not mean the junky, rattling sound of chest or nasal congestion. Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound, when your child takes a breath. If your child is a “happy wheezer” then do not worry. If your child is struggling to breathe, then seek medical attention.