It can be hard to understand severity when kids are unwell – should they stay home, should they see the GP, when should you be worried? As a general guide, here are some tips but individual circumstances should always err on caution and involve your GP.

Assessing unwell kids. This involves 3 components – their general appearance, their breathing and their skin circulation. For general appearance in younger kids, being less active, less interactive, less consolable, less reactive to others and less verbal often means they’re sick. For breathing, increased effort to breathe (e.g. gasping or rapid breaths or using their whole body to breath), increased sounds (e.g. grunting, wheeze) and irregular pattern of breathing means they’re sick. For skin circulation, blue/purple discolouration and reduced redness to fingers after squeezing means they’re sick.

What’s normal? Normal breathing rates are 60 per minute for neonates, 30-40 for less than 1 year olds, 25-35 for 1-5 year olds and 20-25 for 5-12 year olds. Normal heart rates are 160 per minute for neonates, 110-160  for less than 1 year olds, 95-140 for 1-5 year olds and 80-120 for 5-12 year olds.

Red flags to watch for. Kids that have a glassy, glazed look and are not responding to social cues, or are getting tired from breathing (including slower breathing after a period of faster breathing), or have a diminishing, high pitched cry, or have dry mouth, not feeding and reduced urine output, or have ongoing fever past 5 days (or above 39 degrees), or have a bruising-type rash, or any abnormal activity that may resemble a seizure, or are visibly struggling to breath and breathing at a high rate per minute. These are generally emergencies that require immediate medical attention.

How to manage when worried. Any red flags must see a doctor immediately at the hospital. Otherwise any unwell components, or if breathing and heart rates are outside of normal range, or if you’re just unsure, see your GP within 24 hours. Active symptoms such as fever, coughing, vomiting, diarrhoea, rash usually means keeping away from other kids, therefore no school or daycare. Above all, anytime you’re worried please call HealthDirect, your Osana GP or come in for an urgent assessment.