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When to see a Primary Care Provider

baby laying in bed

Children don’t come with an instruction manual, and they often can’t tell you what’s wrong. Should you call the doctor or nurse practitioner for a cough? Vomiting? Diarrhea? Fever?

If you’re worried, call us. Most common issues aren’t emergencies, but sometimes these signs can point to something else. To help you understand when your child might need to see a primary care provider at Children’s Health℠, below are some tips.

And the bottom line is, if you are concerned or have a question, call us. We’re here to walk you through at-home treatments or to make an appointment with your child’s doctor or nurse practitioner, or just to ease your mind that what you’re going through is normal.



Fevers aren’t bad – they are the body’s way of fighting off infection. Generally, a low fever is less than 102 degrees. A moderate fever is 102 to 104 degrees, and a high fever is 104 degrees and higher. Fevers aren’t dangerous unless they reach over 106 degrees. We recommend calling your child’s doctor or nurse practitioner under the following conditions:

  • The fever doesn’t come down within an hour after giving your child a fever-reducing medicine, like acetaminophen.
  • The fever responds to medication but returns when the medication wears off and lasts for several days.
  • In babies younger than 3 months, any temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher.
  • A fever higher than 104 degrees in a child of any age.

You may also want to call your doctor or nurse practitioner if the fever is accompanied by:

  • Signs of dehydration – no tears when a child cries or a lack of urination
  • A rash that lasts longer than three days
  • Weakness or extreme fatigue
Stomach Ache

Stomach Ache

Intestinal issues, usually caused by a virus, are a common cause of vomiting, diarrhea and even cough and cold symptoms. We recommend calling the doctor or nurse practitioner if your child has a stomachache combined with any of the following symptoms:

  • Blood in the stool or vomit
  • Abdominal pain in one spot
  • A fever for more than three days
  • Diarrhea and lack of urination
  • Constipation, vomiting or a swollen stomach along with a fever
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes and dark urine
  • Pain in the middle or lower back and painful urination
Dehydration, Diarrhea and Vomiting

Dehydration, Diarrhea and Vomiting

Vomiting and diarrhea, especially in children, can easily lead to dehydration. Always call the doctor or nurse practitioner if you think your child is dehydrated. Signs of dehydration:

  • Dry mouth
  • Sleepiness
  • Thirst
  • Decreased urine output
  • No wet diapers for three hours in babies
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Unusually irritable

Diarrhea can lead to dehydration and is considered severe under the following conditions:

  • Lasts more than 10 days
  • More than eight stools a day
  • Stool has blood or mucus
  • Is accompanied by a fever of more than 102 degrees

Vomiting is common in childhood, but call the doctor under the following conditions:

  • Lasts more than 24 hours
  • A baby vomits more than 8 times
  • An older child vomits more than 10 times
  • Seems unusually severe
  • Severe stomachache
Coughs, Colds & Respiratory Problems

Coughs, Colds & Respiratory Problems

Coughs that come with a cold clear mucus from the airways. There is no cure for the common cold, and cough and cold medicines are not recommended for babies and young children. For newborns, a common cold can quickly lead to croup, pneumonia or other serious illness. Call the doctor or nurse practitioner under the following conditions:

  • Constant cough
  • Noisy breathing
  • Painful coughing
  • Coughing that causes vomiting
  • Symptoms keep a child up at night
  • Symptoms last more than two weeks
  • Problems with breathing
  • Fever lasting more than three days
  • Signs of dehydration
  • Fever
  • Ear pain or unusual irritability
  • Baby refuses to nurse or drink fluids


Also known as dermatitis – are a rite of passage for childhood. Infections, irritations and wet diapers can all lead to rashes. Here’s when to call the doctor or nurse practitioner:

  • A child is bothered by a rash
  • A child acts sick
  • Does not improve within three days
  • The rash looks like a bruise or does not lighten in color when you press on it
  • It is accompanied by a fever

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