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Aethelwine's avatar

What questions should I ask our doctor concerning our daughter's repeated illnesses?

Asked by Aethelwine (41395points) March 26th, 2011

My daughter is 7 and attending first grade. Since the beginning of kindergarten she’s been ill at least once a month during the school year. Usually a high fever of 102–104F that lasts a few days (at least), accompanied with a cough, sometimes a headache and vomiting.

Once a month seems extreme to me so I asked our doctor what could be wrong. We heard everything from “It’s that time of year” to “It could be allergies, have her take claritin”.

I have a gut feeling something else is wrong. My sons were never ill this much. A high fever every month during the school year for two years now?

We are looking for a new doctor. Are there any tests that I should ask for? Is it common for a young child to get ill like this so often? I’m so frustrated with our doctor’s advice because it isn’t helping. :(

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31 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Looking for a new doctor sounds like an excellent starting point. I wish I knew the questions you should ask. A high fever every month is definitely something that should be investigated.

I wish you all the best of luck in getting to the bottom of this mystery.

cazzie's avatar

Did you have her tested for asthma? We were discussing her cough, I remember.

Does she eat food the school provides or do you fix her snacks and lunch?

Has the school been building or re-flooring? (I once had a nasty reaction to the smell/fumes of a newly laid gym floor.)

Some kids do pick up every little virus that goes around. I think the next time she’s symptomatic, she needs bloods drawn to see what’s going on with her immune system. They’re not going to test for ‘what virus is attacking her’... that’s pretty off the charts.. but they will look at what her body is doing, like an elevated white blood cell count… which would be healthy and expected. They should also look at the number and shape of her red blood cells and check her urine for proteins or blood that shouldn’t be there.

Is your daughter underweight? overweight? Does she eat well? Plenty of fruits and veg and unprocessed food? Does she bruise easily?

Mom’s guts are pretty trustworthy. If your doctor dismisses you, find another doctor.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

I would ask all these questions of your current doctor first, so you have some frame of reference.

I would ask, “When, in your medical opinion, should we start worrying that she’s got some kind of underlying issue?” And then I would ask, “And how would that opinion change if it was your child in question?”. I would also ask, “If you had a patient whom you felt had nothing really wrong with them, but the parents/patient were sure that something bigger was going on, and kept coming back, how would you handle that?”

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

Maybe she has an auto-immune thing?

Judi's avatar

My grandson is going through the same thing and he is supposed to start school in the fall. After a lot of research and tenacity, my daughter finally got him a referral to a pediatric immunologist at UCLA. He is actually taking it seriously, and ran a battery of tests.
No real answer yet, but more tests to go. They did discover that his pnemonia vaccine somehow didn’t take and their trying to figure out why his body didn’t make the antibodies.
He was sick again today. It breaks my heart. He is starting to feel guilty for getting sick and he is starting to panic everytime he gets his labs done.

Aethelwine's avatar

I’m so sorry @Judi. I understand the frustration. :(

Thank you everyone. You have been very helpful. I appreciate it.

augustlan's avatar

@jonsblond & @Judi I hope those poor babies feel better soon.

When my oldest was very young, she got high fevers for no apparent reason pretty often. She usually had no other symptoms whatsoever, so we were stumped. One day, she woke up all red in the face (like this), and I took her right to the doctor. It turned out she had scarlet fever, which comes from an untreated strep infection. She’d apparently been having strep infections the whole time, and we’d had no clue. I felt so bad! She continued to experience multiple strep infections, and we were just at the point of getting her tonsils removed when they suddenly stopped happening. No rhyme or reason. All of this is a very long winded way to say: check out strep.

When I was a kid, I caught everything, and was sick all the time. A large portion of it turned out to be allergies, but I also had something wrong with my immune system (actually, I guess allergies are something wrong with the immune system). As an adult, this has manifested as several auto-immune issues. So, definitely don’t rule out something deeper, either).

sakura's avatar

I don’t now about the cough… but high fever and vomiting could be her appendix?

As @augustlan says try asking about scarlet fever, my sister had that when she was younger with similar symptoms.

Also maybe some sort of urine infection, my neice has a condition where a little bit of her unrine goes back up inside her..she was poorly with similar symptoms for 12months before the doctors realised what it was, she wasn’t thriving and was miserable as soon as they put her on medication she developed so quickly!

Also you say she is ill during the school year…does this mean she isn’t as ill during the holidays? If so check out where her classroom is based, do they do certain activites at the end of the month- get sand out for a treat, paint, clay etc… could it be linked to that? what’s on the school menu, does it run on a rota system…certain foods at certain times?

One thing is for certain don’t give up…don’t let the doctor fobb you off, you know your daughter and you know what makes her tick as you are with her all the time, I know it’s different in America and you have to pay for medical care but try to demand as many tests as possible to rule out everything!


optimisticpessimist's avatar

I would also try to find a new doctor if you are not happy with this one. IMHO, the doctor should not just be basically shrugging his/her shoulders and not investigating further. Once a month seems a little much to me. However, my sister was told by her doctor (she has too older boys and one younger daughter) that girls have a tendency to get sick more than boys because they tend to be in touch/physical contact with other children more than boys do. Boys tend to play outside far apart (like soccer and baseball) and with things; girls tend to play closely together even if outside (like tea parties) and touch each other more often. I hope I explained that correctly without offending anyone.

janbb's avatar

Definitely try another doctor. Talk to him about your concerns about her illness. You’ll know what to ask. I had a medical problem and went to three gynecologists. Two of them wanted to do a hysterectomy. The third one said, “You shouldn’t have to live with that – that’s awful” and solved the problem within six weeks. You’ll know when you’ve got the right one.

snowberry's avatar

Find the best pediatric internist in your area. Sometimes this means you have to go out of network of your insurance plan, and some of them don’t even bother with insurance. I may be able to help you find one. PM me if you need to.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Have you considered appendicitis? Besides the obvious “nausea” if she’s vomiting, does she ever complain about her stomach hurting? I had appendicitis and didn’t know it. I knew something was wrong because I kept getting sick and having these awful cramps on the low right side of my stomach. Looong story about what happened, but you may want to have her appendix checked out.

Aethelwine's avatar

Thanks for all the ideas and suggestions everyone. She is usually healthy during the summer, it’s when school starts and she’s inside more when the symptoms start. She missed several days of school a few weeks ago due to a high fever and cough. When I called the school to report her absence I asked the secretary if any illnesses were going around. She said there were many children missing school for the same reason as my daughter. She just seems to catch what everyone else is sick with, on top of having allergies (and possibly asthma, something @cazzie and I have discussed recently).

She attended a different school last year for kindergarten, so I don’t think it has anything to do with the school.

@augustlan She’s had several mystery fevers that last for one day. She’ll come home from school, say on a Friday, feeling tired and warm. She’ll have a fever around 103F for the night with no other symptoms, then be fine the next day. This always puzzles me! Jon told me he was the same when he was young. He was always sick it seemed.

Thanks again everyone. You’ve been very helpful. I’ll be making an appointment with a new doctor Monday. Hopefully they can get her in asap, and I’ll be prepared with many questions!

HudsonHero's avatar

CNN Medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, wrote an excellent book called, “The Empowered Patient.” I advise anyone going to the hospital or having medical issues to read it. She does a great job helping one understand the best questions to ask ones doctor but what also to do to get the best help. Sometimes doctors are wrong or tests are wrong. Go with your gut.

snowberry's avatar

Does her joints ever ache or swell? This should also be mentioned to your internist.

Oh, and in addition, there are false negatives for a variety of diseases. One such is Lyme disease. It does not do well in a “blood environment”, but it will use the blood to travel to areas that do provide a good environment such as a joint. Lyme disease often goes undiagnosed for years until a biopsy of a joint is tested for Lyme. By that time it’s often too late to treat properly, and people die from it.

Rarebear's avatar

Honestly, please take the advice of people on fluther with a grain of salt. Just to put your fears somewhat at rest and address the issues that were brought up in this thread:

Autoimmune disease, appendicitis, lyme disease are all extremely unlikely. Also, there’s no such thing as a pediatric internist. Pediatricians see childrens. Internists see adults. Family physicians (like me) see both.

Schools are absolute cess pools of germ pits. There are viruses absolutely everywhere in school and the close contact between kids and lack of handwashing make them perfect vectors for infection. Also, kids are seeing new viruses that they haven’t been exposed to before and they get sick. Kids get high fevers, that’s the immune response talking, and it’s normal. Adults get sick less often because they’ve been exposed to viruses more and their immune system is better prepared.

Common things are common. Rare things are rare. Common things are rhinoviruses, flu viruses, and strep throat infections. Rare things are chronic appendicitis, autoimmune disease, lyme disease, stuff like that.

Change doctors if you feel uncomfortable. If she gets a sore throat, ask for a strep screen, as strep throat is the only thing that’s really treatable. You can’t prevent a cold; you can only do handwashing. My daughter’s 2nd grade teacher had Purel on each desk and encouraged the kids to use them. Probably not coincidentally, my daughter was less sick that year (but that could just be confirmation bias). To prevent the flu, get a flu shot or do the nasal snuffle vaccine.

Judi's avatar

@Rarebear; but there ARE pediatric immunologists and if her child gets sicker than everyone else when she gets sick and gets sick more often, mama is not over reacting to want to find a cause. It is very frustrating when doctors get in “doctor God” mode and discount a mothers instincts.
The immunologist still does not know what’s wrong with my grandson, but they know that his white blood count goes way down when he gets sick and that for some reason his body didn’t make the antibodies when he had his pnemonia vaccine. I suspect if you had been his doctor he probably would never have gotten the referral to the immunologist, would have spent half of kindergarten home sick, and would have fallen behind academically.
Thank goodness my daughters doctor respected her enough to honor her request to see the immunologist, and that the immunologist took her concerns seriously. We still may not have a diagnosis, but at least the doctors we have don’t roll their eyes at my daughter and respect her instincts.

snowberry's avatar

Yaaay, well said, @Judi! My point was that in many cases, the patient, (or the parent) must become somewhat of an authority on the subject of their history, their symptoms, and their medication, and their illness. Doctors do not know everything, and they sometimes miss stuff because in spite of their education, they are not infallible. It happened to my husband, it happened to my next door neighbor, and it has happened to several other people I know. A responsible person who has been through the medical mill will eventually begin to educate themselves so they can be an informed consumer, instead of being at the mercy of yet another authority on their disease.

Doctors often are unaware of this sort of thing because if a patient becomes disillusioned with their doctor, they don’t tell them. All the doctor knows is that they go away.

Rarebear's avatar

Of a doctor is not infallible, and I completely agree with a parent being an advocate for their child. I just don’t think that asking question on anonymous general q&a websites is the best way to put your mind at ease or get advice. I’ve seen much more damage than good in my online travels with people trying to be helpful.

Aethelwine's avatar

@Rarebear I’m intelligent enough to know what advice has been helpful and what hasn’t. I’ve received pm’s and support that have put my mind at ease. I don’t see what is wrong with that. I’m not solely relying on the information I’ve received here, but some of it has helped. How can that be a bad thing? I’d rather have a million questions to ask my doctor than one or two. It is my child I’m speaking of.

And it’s not anonymous for me. I’ve been here for almost 2½ years now.

snowberry's avatar

Please let us know how it goes for your daughter. We care.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I agree with @snowberry, please give us an update.

Aethelwine's avatar

Thanks everyone. My daughter came home from school last Thursday with a high fever and vomiting. That’s when I asked this question. Friday she developed a runny nose and cough. She was still vomiting Saturday, and by that afternoon her temperature reached 104.6F, so I immediately took her to the ER. She tested negative for strep, and they treated her for a sinus infection. She’s had many sinus infections in the past due to her allergies.

I made an appointment with a new doctor, but they can’t see her until Tuesday, April 5th. The good news is she is finally back in school today. She still has a runny nose, but it’s not as bad as it was, and her fever finally broke. I’m going to talk to the doctor about alternatives for treating her allergies since OTC medicines aren’t helping. I’m also going to inquire about the possibility of asthma and concerns about her immune system. I’ll let you know what the doctor says.

Thanks again for your help, support and concern. You guys are the best!

Rarebear's avatar

@jonsblond Not trying to insult you. I know you’re intelligent enough to know the difference. I was speaking generally of medical related questions on Fluther.

Judi's avatar

@snowberry, after going to the immunologist, my daughter was explaining to my grandsons regular doctor and his partner the tests they were doing and they were intrigued. They didn’t even know that those tests were available.

snowberry's avatar

Now we’re following the stories of two medical mysteries. Please, @Judi and @jonsblond let us know what’s happening.

Aethelwine's avatar

Update: Our current doctor prescribed Zyrtec for our daughter. Our previous doctor didn’t tell us that the allergy medicine needs to be taken every day for at least a month before it kicks in. She’s been taking Zyrtec for almost 4 months now and she hasn’t had any health problems at all. This is the longest time she has gone without any problems since she started school two years ago. Not one fever since I asked this question!

There are some incompetent doctors out there. How sad. :/

Luckily we found someone who could help us. Thanks everyone!

augustlan's avatar

Thanks for the update, @jonsblond. Glad to hear she’s doing well!

cazzie's avatar

Thanks so much for the update. I hope she grows out of the allergies.

Aethelwine's avatar

^^ Thank you for your support. It means a lot. =)

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

It’s great to hear that she’s doing better. Thanks for the update!!

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