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How To "Speak The Latin"

How To "Speak The Latin"

January 1, 2014 - By Dr Antony Zardis

Some great tips to enable you to help your Doctor to act fast and make the best diagnosis for your child.

As Doctor's a great part of our extensive training involves learning how to communicate effectively with our patients. This enables us to translate our 'medical jargon' mainly composed of Greek and Latin words, into simple bite size chunks of information for you to understand.

In the same breath it is important that mums and dads become familiar with what signs and symptoms to look out for in a sick child. This essentially requires you to assume the role of a nurse by monitoring parameters such as temperature and administering medications such as paracetamol. This does indeed require you to 'speak the latin'  in the metaphorical sense of the phrase. In this way, you can communicate with your GP or Emergency Doctor quickly and efficiently, allowing you to work together in order to reach a diagnosis rather swiftly.

Here are some valuable pointers for you to note and be ready with when visiting your GP or A&E:

1. The red book 

Always remember to take this with you to every consultation with a health professional. It is an invaluable tool which allows us to monitor your child's growth and development and allows effective communication between the different health professionals that may see your child. This makes it quick and easy for us to keep up-to-date with how your child is progressing and allows early detection of conditions that may effect their development.

It should also be up to date with your child's latest immunisations.

2. Feeding 

Your child's feeding pattern is a good indicator of how well it is tolerating an acute illness. Note down roughly how many bottles your baby is managing to feed on. What is important here is not the actual amount per se, but the amount it has reduced in comparison to its usual bottle regime.

Less then 50% of its normal amount over a 24 hour period is generally deemed a cause for concern.

3. Hydration 

Nappy contents are a good indicator of hydration. Concentrated and or smelly urine may be a reflection that your baby is dehydrated.This could be due to an acute illness. Be sure to note how many wet nappies you have gone through in a day.

Less then 4 wet nappies over a 24 hour period is generally deemed a cause for concern.

Also look out for a dry tongue, dry skin and sunken eyes, all of which indicate a dehydrated child.

4. Temperature

A topic discussed at much length in my previous article. Remember it is not a one off high reading that counts here, but a sustained temperature accompanied by distress. Invest in an easy use thermometer. The under arm ones may prove a little fiddly, but are rather accurate. If you struggle with these, the easiest ( but most expensive ) to use are the ear thermometers.

A sustained temperature greater then 38 C is cause for concern. Take the temperature before giving any medication like paracetamol. It is important not to mask a high temperature by giving this. Take the temperature again shortly after giving paracetamol. A high temperature that is irresponsive to an antipyretic is more cause for concern.

This is very important information that you should note and have available to hand when attending your GP or A&E.

4. Breathing

Look out for heavy or rapid breathing and grunting, which may all indicate that your child is struggling to breath normally. This could be due to a an Upper Respiratory Tract Infection, Pneumonia or Asthma.

5. Rash

Undress baby and have a good look for any rashes that may have appeared. A none blanching rash should always raise suspicion for meningitis. If witnessed, especially in the context of an unwell child, it is important to alert your Doctor immediately.

6. Vomiting

If your child is vomiting, note whether this is:

  • projectile
  • blood stained
  • on an empty stomach or after a feed

Note how alert your baby is:

  • does it respond to the sound of your voice?
  • if not, does it respond to your touch?
  • does it look drowsy or floppy?

Have you noted any seizures? If so, do these coincide with a high temperature.

Note any ear pulling as this may indicate an ear infection.

Excess drooling may also indicate that your child is having difficulty swallowing its own saliva. This may be due to a sore throat or a foreign object that has been accidentally swallowed.

Does your child hold its leg or arm still in a fixed position. If so, this may indicate an infection in a joint.

Use your smart phone to take pictures or film anything unusual that you are worried about.

Primary source information will always be welcomed by your Doctor and this will help alleviate your anxiety about most things.

In conclusion...

It goes without saying that this is not an exhaustive list of signs and symptoms to look out for in a sick child.....after all, that is OUR job to do on assessment. It is merely a brief stencil which you can refer to if you feel overwhelmed or out of your depth at any point. You may also use it as a prompt, if you are unsure about which stage to seek medical advice. If you are still in any doubt, it is always best to seek advice from your GP.

Lastly, when you have one foot out of the door in your evening attire, for your first night out in weeks, and you have just noticed baby has a stuffy nose, or it's nappy contents are runny, instead of spending an hour trying to "speak the Latin" to your child minder, leave them with your pad and this article, and keep walking out of that door......modern day technology does after all dictate that you will always just be a phone call away.

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