When You Have to Be a Nurse After-Hours . . .

One of the challenges of parenthood is dealing with a sick child at night. Because younger children are unable to describe symptoms in detail, parents might be unsure whether the problem requires immediate medical attention or can wait until the morning.

What to do? Here, a few guidelines from experts.

* When choosing a doctor for your child, select someone who will give you a plan for nighttime illness. Some doctors will take phone calls at night. Others will refer parents to an after-hours clinic or emergency room. Others have no after-hours plan. If you belong to a health maintenance organization, it is particularly important to know where to seek help after-hours in order to ensure reimbursement. The doctor should also give new parents some general guidelines about when to seek help. Knowing such information can make an emergency a little easier to handle.

* Know the location of your nearest after-hours medical clinic, emergency room and 24-hour pharmacy.


* Remember that it’s typical for fevers to be higher at night.

* Don’t expect a child who has been sick during the day to have a quiet night. Prepare to be a night nurse.

* Have a good medical guide on children’s health problems at home and keep it handy. The best ones advise parents on when they should call for immediate medical treatment and when they can safety wait until morning.

* If you are still not sure whether to take your child to the emergency room, call first and ask to speak with a nurse about the symptoms.


* Stay calm. Remember that your fatigue and other factors may make things seem worse than they actually are.