Signs of Illness

Any of these signs of illness should be watched carefully and may need a call to your child’s doctor:

  • Fever is a temperature over 100.4 F. It is often the first sign of illness and should be reported to your doctor. Temperatures less than that are not a cause for concern.
  • Exercise or excitement might make the temperature go up. A person’s normal body temperature varies with the time of day (lower in the morning, higher in the late afternoon). It also varies from child to child; 98.6 may not be normal for many children.
  • Diarrhea means frequent loose stools. Do not confuse it with frequent soft stools (bowel movements) that are common in young infants. Diarrhea may indicate illness.
  • Vomiting may indicate illness.
  • Unexplained sleepiness may be an indicator of an illness. Observe the child closely if he is sleepy when he is not expected to be.
  • Localized pain, if it is steady and will not go away may indicate illness, especially if in the ears or abdomen.
  • Difficulty in breathing may indicate an illness. Contact Emergency Medical Services if necessary.
  • Constipation is hard marble-like bowel movements and is common in children, especially in those who eat minimal amounts of fruits and vegetables. If there is pain with bowel movements, or blood in the stool, or on the toilet paper, it should be watched.
  • Skin rash may be a sign of illness or it may be from an allergy.
  • Skin discoloration may be a sign of illness if the discolored areas are red or numerous.
  • Normal bumps and falls also may cause skin discoloration.
  • Swelling or any abnormal enlargement may indicate injury or illness.
  • Watch for and follow any unusual behavior (i.e., irritability, fussiness, prolonged crying, etc.).

Your Response to Signs of Illness in Children

Serious Signs of Illness

Call doctor immediately! Watch the child closely. Do not leave alone. Emergency treatment may be required.

  • Severe coughing, high pitched whistling sound, redness or blueness in face, difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting with other signs such as headache or fever
  • Fever 100.4° or greater, extreme tiredness, difficult to awaken
  • Sore throat, difficulty breathing and swallowing

Signs of a Probable Communicable Illness

Call the doctor. Isolate the child as much as possible until you take them to the doctor.

  • Redness, swelling, drainage of eye
  • Unusual spots/rashes with fever or itching
  • Sore throat
  • Crusty, bright yellow, gummy skin sores
  • Diarrhea(more than three loose stools a day)
  • Vomiting (more than two times a day)
  • Yellow discoloration of skin and/or the whites of eyes
  • Clay colored stools or tea colored urine

Signs of a Possible Communicable Illness

Watch child closely. Notify and discuss signs with doctor if it does not improve.

  • Earache (check for fever or discharge)
  • Headache
  • Itching of scalp (Check for nits; if present, isolate until treated)
  • Fever less than 100.4 F
  • Runny nose (Check temperature)

Continue to Taking a Child’s Temperature