Last year, we had the largest number of children's flu deaths in a single flu season, a sobering reminder that even the healthiest child can be at risk. To understand the importance of why children, and even teens need to see a doctor when sick, we first need to understand how a child's immune system differs from an adult's. Let's take a look!
Just like a child's heart, liver, and kidneys must grow as a child grows, the immune system develops over time through exposure to various sickness "bugs”. Therefore, a young child doesn't have the same immune system as an adult. Children who are not yet in a public setting like daycare or school may have even less immunity because they've not been exposed to viruses, bacteria, and fungus prevalent in public settings.
The immune system is made up of two primary parts: the innate immune system, which is what a child is born with and the adaptive immune system, which learns from its environment how to best respond to pathogens.
The innate immune system is composed of:
These provide initial immunity to a child so that he or she can survive outside the womb in those first months of life. The innate immune system later works with the adaptive immune system to increase a child's immunity.
A child is also born with T cells—important fighter cells in the immune system. When these T cells are young, they do not yet have the ability to self-regulate their response, which may frequently lead to the immune system over-reacting to “minor” threats.
Certain strategies like breastfeeding, allowing a child to play in the dirt, and not over-sterilizing a child’s environment, can help their immune systems develop. But even approaches take time to build up a child’s immunity.
Because a child's immune system isn't fully developed, the system may either over-react or be incapable of handling an invader that an adult's immune system wouldn't "bat an eye at." This leads to the child potentially developing dangerous symptoms like excessive:
While an adult may be able to forego an appointment when contracting a cold, a healthy child isn't physically equipped to do the same. Some infections, such as bacterial meningitis, can kill a child in as little as a few hours and leave many more with permanent physical, mental, and learning disabilities. An unresponsive child is always an emergency, but, for most, you do have at least 24-48 hours to get into the see Dr. Kodu for sick care.
The Penguin Pediatrics PLLC team recommends that you schedule an appointment, for your sick child, as soon as possible since it may take several hours to get in. An early evaluation helps ensure that your child doesn't have a pathogen that their body cannot reasonably handle. Dr. Kodu's team works with parents to monitor the child and serves as an immediate and informed point of contact if symptoms worsen.
Sick testing may include a throat swab, blood tests, X-rays, or other testing depending on a child's symptoms. In some cases, Dr. Kodu may prescribe medications, but prescriptions aren't always the answer. Either way, the monitoring of your sick child, according to Dr. Kodu's recommendations, can help your child get well sooner and prevent potentially life-long complications.
If your child is sick, contact Penguin Pediatrics PLLC to schedule an appointment today.