For parents trying to determine whether to take a child who is experiencing the signs of a cold to the doctor can be a regular occurrence. From runny noses to ear infections, kids can pass illnesses back and forth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that children have about two to nine illnesses per year, nearly double the number of colds adolescents and adults experience during the same time frame.
But when are those coughs and stuffed noses more than just a routine cold, and at what point do parents need to pay extra attention and take their children to the doctor?
Knowing how to recognize when your children need medical attention can help keep them healthy and prevent stressful emergency trips to the doctor or hospital.
While many parents will call their doctor if their child has a fever, it is important to recognize that a fever is not the only sign of an illness that needs immediate medical attention. Other symptoms can include difficulty breathing, vomiting, excessive irritability, lack of appetite, severe headache and refusal to eat or drink.
Parents should also be mindful of rare and serious diseases. One such condition is primary immunodeficiency (PI). PI is a group of more than 150 disorders, genetic in nature, that affect the cells, tissues and organs of the immune system. For the estimated 10 million people worldwide who are living with PI, the immune system is either deficient or functioning inadequately, leaving them with greater susceptibility to infection.
A Familyâ€™s Journey to a Proper Diagnosis
Eric Nixon has three children who have been diagnosed with PI. His oldest son experienced many of the signs and symptoms of primary immunodeficiency for more than a decade before receiving an accurate diagnosis at age 11.
â€œFor the first 11 years of my sonâ€™s life, we went from specialist to specialist with ear infections, sinus infections, pneumonia and other illnesses that would keep coming back,â€ said Nixon. â€œWe were often told he only had a cold and we were being too cautious, but we knew typical children should not be this sick this often. Eventually we visited an immunologist who diagnosed him with primary immunodeficiency. Since then, my other children were tested and also diagnosed with the same condition.â€
With his children constantly ill, Nixon and his family had to schedule their lives around the many doctor and specialist appointments. These visits, combined with the kidsâ€™ recurrent illnesses, meant that the family was unable to go on vacations, and the children would frequently miss school, birthday parties and other childhood activities.
Finding an Appropriate Treatment
In 2010, all three children transitioned to a new, innovative subcutaneous (i.e., under the skin) immunoglobulin (SCIg) called HizentraÂ®, (Immune Globulin Subcutaneous [Human], 20% Liquid). Hizentra, developed by CSL Behring, is the first and only 20 percent SCIg indicated for the treatment of primary humoral immunodeficiency. Because Hizentra can be stored at room temperature for its 30-month shelf life, Nixonâ€™s children are able to administer their therapy at home or on the road and are not limited to a doctorâ€™s office.
â€œWe can fit Hizentra around our schedules, which helps my children lead more typical, active lives,â€ Nixon added. â€œBecause the product is portable and convenient, we can now go on family vacations and my kids donâ€™t have to miss activities with their friends because of their treatment schedule.â€
Trusting a Parentâ€™s Instinct
In 2010, The Lancet published a study that a parentâ€™s instinct regarding their childâ€™s health is usually spot on. Nixon couldnâ€™t agree more. â€œDoctors accused us of being overcautious, but we knew something was wrong and are glad we followed our instinct.â€ In addition to following their gut, parents should call their childâ€™s doctor if symptoms worsen, even if the kids have recently seen the physician, or if their child is frequently ill.