Children's Hospital Colorado

9 Common Health Questions for Children of Any Age

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At Children's Hospital Colorado, we understand that some health concerns follow parents and children through every age and stage. The following questions will help prepare you for those common rites of passage.

How do I prepare my child for surgery?

Preparing children for surgery comes down to two big things: scheduling at a pediatric hospital, and talking beforehand with your child.

Pediatric hospitals are better prepared for your child surgery because:

  • They do 1,000s of surgeries each year.
  • They know how to ease a child’s fears and anxieties.
  • They specialize in treating young, still-growing bodies.
  • They have unique amenities for kids like flavored anesthesia.

How to talk surgery to different ages

  • 0-3 years old – Talk 1-2 days before and display confidence. Kids this age need simple reassurance.
  • 3-12 years old –Talk 3-5 days before and answer questions. School-age kids will want to understand what’s going to happen.
  • 13-18 years old – Talk the day the surgery is scheduled and 4-5 days before. Give your child some control and choice over who else knows about surgery and the overall experience.

Watch our "What to Expect from Your Surgery Video" to see what surgery day is like at Children’s Colorado.

How do we stop bullying (or survive it)?

Almost half of kids have been bullied online, and over 150,000 will skip school to avoid bullying at school. To fight against these statistics, here’s what you can do:

  • Recognize the 3 types: physical, verbal and social bullying.
  • Observe times in which your child is bullied or being a bully.
  • Monitor social media accounts, email and text messages.
  • Limit online activities and interactions appropriately.
  • Do not tolerate aggression or bullying between siblings or peers.
  • Listen to what your child talks about with his or her peers.
  • Network with parents, teachers and coaches to observe and end bullying.
  • Check your bullying blind spots by tuning into interactions you trust or take for granted.
  • Speak up whenever it is appropriate to end bullying behaviors.
  • Support your child if he or she is a victim, offering tips and sympathy.

Help take a stand against bullying.

When should I call my doctor about a fever?

Fevers aren’t the same for all kids. Here’s when it’s really time to call the doctor:

  • Under 3 months: 100.4˚F or higher
  • 3-6 months: 101˚F or high + other symptoms
  • 6 months or older: 103˚F + other symptoms
  • All ages: Lower than normal temperatures + other symptoms
  • All ages: High temperatures for an extended period of time

Get all the facts (and dispel the myths) about fevers.

Does my child have asthma?

While no two children with asthma are exactly alike, here are some common symptoms to look out for:

  • Frequent cough
  • Wheezing
  • Trouble breathing
  • A tight feeling in their chest
  • Reoccurring bronchitis
  • Fatigue and coughing during exercise
  • Coughs and colds that last longer than other kids’
  • Coughs and colds that get worse at night

If your child has these symptoms, talk with your doctor or call the specialists at the Children’s Colorado's Breathing Institute at 720-777-6181 for an evaluation. If these symptoms are extremely severe, go to the emergency department right away. Learn more about the types of coughs in kids and what they can mean.

How can I tell if my child has food allergies?

Since at least 1 in every 20 children has a food allergy, it’s important to keep an eye out for the following food allergy symptoms:

  • Itching of the mouth and throat
  • Throat tightness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sneezing
  • Wheezing
  • Itchy skin
  • Hives

If you think your child has a food allergy, talk to your doctor about having your child tested at Children Colorado's Allergy Care center. If you suspect a gluten allergy, visit our Center for Celiac Disease. It’s one of the country’s few clinics devoted to treating gluten disorders in kids.

We found a lump. Should I be worried?

Call your child’s doctor if the lump is hard, irregularly shaped, and firmly fixed under the skin on deep tissue. Most lumps are not caused by cancer.

Common lumps that aren’t cancer:

  • Thyroid nodules – hard, fixed, but not painful lump in the neck; get it checked by a doctor to determine if treatment is needed.
  • Cysts – soft, fluid-filled and common near breasts and genitals.
  • Lipomas – squishy, moveable fat deposits found often in limbs; can be surgically removed.
  • Fibroadenomas – smooth, ball-like lump that moves easily in the breast; observe it, biopsy it or have it surgically removed.
  • Swollen lymph nodes – Soft, rubbery and tender lumps in armpits, neck and/or behind the ears as a body fights infection. Should return to normal within three weeks after an infection subsides.
  • Ganglion cysts – firm or slightly spongy cysts on the foot, wrist, or back of the hand. They occur after injury and contain synovial fluid. If painful, see your doctor for drainage or removal.

If you’re concerned that the lump might be cancerous, talk to your doctor or contact our Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. It’s one of the top programs in the nation for pediatric hematology, oncology and bone marrow transplants.

Are vaccines safe?

Despite recent debates and fears, it is an irrefutable fact that vaccines have improved child heath around the world and reduced the number of children affected by diseases like chickenpox, polio and measles.

Vaccine safety is also researched regularly, and the vaccine schedule is reevaluated year after year by the nation’s top disease experts and doctors.

If you’re still worried, you can read the most recent academic data and see a fully outlined immunization schedule on the American Academy of Pediatrics website.

Does my kid have the flu or just a common cold?

When cold and flu season hit, it can be hard to tell the difference between these two nasty bugs. Here are a few ways they differ:

  • Chills – If yes, think flu. If no, think cold.
  • Fever – High fever, think flu. Low fever, think cold.
  • Fatigue – Really tired, think flu. Mildly tired, think cold.
  • Achy – Sore muscles, think flu. No aches, think cold.

No matter which one your child’s got, unless symptoms are very severe, treatment remains the same. Read about the differences between COVID-19, RSV, the flu and other respiratory viruses.

Is this an emergency? When to go to your child’s primary care doctor, an urgent care clinic or the ER.

If you’re not sure when to call your doctor, when to call 911, and when to visit an urgent care center, here are some good rules of thumb:

  • If the issue is life threatening, call 911 for help.
  • If the issue is not life threatening, call your child’s doctor for advice.
  • If your doctor is not available, call our 24-hour ParentSmart Healthline at 720-777-0123 or 855-KID-INFO.
  • If you’re still concerned, visit urgent care.

Life-threatening symptoms include:

  • Blue skin or lips
  • Unresponsive or difficult to rouse
  • Trouble breathing
  • Head injury followed by vomit and/or changes in alertness
  • A blunt or penetrating injury to the eye or acute eye pain
  • An object stuck in your child (do not pull it out)
  • Numb, tingly, or paralyzed on one side of the body
  • Slurred speech or difficulty speaking
  • Seizures that won’t stop
  • Broken limb with bone sticking out
  • Anyone under 18 with suicidal or homicidal thoughts
  • Anyone under 18 who has experienced sexual abuse or neglect

Common Urgent Care Symptoms

  • Routine illness, injury or lacerations
  • Broken limbs with no visible bone sticking out
  • Normal headaches or migraines without tingling or weakness
  • Head injury without vomit or behavior change 

If you believe your child has ingested something poisonous, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222. For child-specific advice, contact Children Colorado's ParentSmart Healthline

Not sure what kind of care your kid needs? Check here first.

Read more of the Parent Survival Guide

Prepare yourself for other ages and stages with more frequently asked questions in our Booster Shots to Booster Seats quick guide to child health.

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