When do YOU think it's time to see a doctor?
Feeling unwell yourself, or worse, having a baby that is sick, is worrying to all mums. And while a certain amount of sniffles and sickness is perfectly normal, especially this time a year, knowing when to just ride it out and when to call the doctor is important.
We recently sat down with Dr. Pixie McKenna, the down-to-earth and straight-talking Irish TV doctor, famous from Channel 4's Embarrassing Bodies, to chat all things mama and baby health.
When it comes to sick babies and toddlers, it is easy to start fretting and Googling, which are probably both the worst things to do.
"As a mum, especially if this is your first baby, few things are as distressing as having your baby be sick or unwell," agrees McKenna. "But remember that we all have a tendency to over-worry, and that it is perfectly normal for a baby and young child to run a fever, without there being anything serious going on."
The London-based GP explains that babies and young children, especially if they attend creche or any other form of daycare outside the home, are exposed to pretty much every cold virus going, and that it will take some time before their immune systems are up to fighting it all off.
"That said, these will just come and go, and will rarely require a trip to the doctor. Viruses cannot be treated by an antibiotic, and luckily doctors are becoming a lot more restrictive about handing these out anyway."
Use fever medication very carefully
When it comes to using fever reducing medicine, like Calpol or Neurofen for babies, McKenna reminds us that you should treat the child, not the fever. "If your child seems in OK form despite having fever, there is absolutely no point in giving them anything at all to take the fever down," she explains. "Children can get high temperatures while still remaining in good form, in which case it is pointless to treat it, the fever will subside by itself eventually. Doing nothing is sometimes the hardest as you feel you are not doing anything to help, but often these things just have to pass by themselves.
If your child seems irritable with fever or in in pain, however, giving some pain- and fever reducing medication is fine, says the doctor, as long as you follow the instructions and measurements properly.
Most importantly, however, is following your gut feeling. "Nobody knows their babies better than mums themselves," explains McKenna. "If you think there is something up than requires a doctor, don't feel bad for contacting your GP. Sometimes you can even call and chat to them, and more likely than not they will just give you some reassurance that you are on the right path, you are doing everything correctly. Often, that is all we need, that second opinion."
However, if your child is sick and start to appear listless or get very irritable, and the fever rises to a temperature of 40 degrees or higher, McKenna thinks it's time to seek some expert advice. "Call your GP or go in," she says. "More often than not everything is perfectly fine, but having had someone look at your child when they are that sick is always reassuring."
The same advice goes for very young babies who develop a fever. "If a baby is under six months old and gets a fever, I would take him to the doctor," McKenna explains. "They are still so young that they have not developed a very strong immune system, nor are they full vaccinated, so it is always a good idea to get them seen to, just to rule out certain things."
Look after mum too
But what about mum, then? We all know having a baby and surviving on sometimes very little sleep can make everyone feel like zombies, but how do you know when you just need to go to bed, or if you should give your GP a call?
"Us mums tend to put everything down to tiredness," says McKenna. "Which it in many cases is, of course. But if you are feeling more knackered than usual, it might not be a bad idea to go see you doctor and get some simple tests done. Extreme tiredness can, apart from the obvious reasons, also be caused by for instance anemia or a problem with your thyroid."
Another reason to absolutely get in touch with your GP according to the TV doctor, is if your feelings of happiness just aren't there. "Having a baby is exhausting and overwhelming, and you are tired and knee-deep in dirty nappies, but there should also, at least for moments every day, be that feeling of joy and happiness. And if that isn't materializing for you, then maybe you are suffering from post natal depression, to a degree or severely.
If you find yourself not wanting to socialize, or not wanting to be intimate with your partner, these can be warning signs too, and should be taken seriously.
So in that case, don't delay asking for help, the doctor urges. "Talk to your GP, they will be so used to dealing with this and will be able to reassure you that you are absolutely not alone in this, and that things will get better and that there is plenty of help out there for you."
Pixie McKenna can currently be seen on RTE's You Should Really See a Doctor, where Mckenna alongside Cork-based Dr Phil Kieran will bring medical help to the nation's doorsteps by visiting big events across Ireland with their pop-up clinic meeting people with health concerns.