Is baby sick or just teething?



Have you ever met two doctors whose different schools of thought leave you more confused as a patient?
About a year ago, Little Missy, then about 14 months old, woke up in the middle of the night throwing up and with some crazy fever. My children chewed our two thermometers so nowadays I can only classify fever as mild, high and crazy. Crazy must be in the ranges of 38.5 and above in my head.

Anyway, since the elder boy had also been throwing up and running a fever for a day or so, I decided to take the two to hospital the next day. The older boy had a nasty throat infection and was put on antibiotics. For the girl, apart from fever, the doc couldn’t pinpoint anything in particular, but because she had similar symptoms as the brother, she too was put on antibiotics.The boy improved promptly. But the girl, after 24 hours on antibiotics seemed to be getting worse. Her fever was not abating; in fact I was alternating Brufen and paracetamol every two hours with just a little improvement and I started worrying I would overdose the baby. She was weak, screaming in pain every hour or so, was  diarrhoeaing and throwing up . I started wondering if she was adversely reacting to the medicine. So on day four of sickness and day three of medication we went back to the same hospital but found a different doctor, who decided to change the antibiotics.

More than 24 hours later on new medication, Little Missy wasn’t getting out of the woods. She still was running a burning fever and we were alternating painkillers every three hours, she was having tremors and was so weak her legs couldn’t bear her weight. Every 1 hour or so she would scream in pain touching her legs. I started wondering whether we were treating the wrong thing when may be the problem was in her legs.

I remember holding her all day long on Sunday as she drifted between awake and asleep and thinking “I so do not feel confident in continuing with this treatment at home another day.”  Being a Sunday, I called our paediatrician and explained what had been going on and asked for advise- whether to continue waiting or to take the child back to hospital. He told us to take the child to hospital.

Hubs had mentioned our week of no sleep to a colleague, who booked us an appointment with a doctor friend of hers. “He’s so good with babies and he does not prescribe medication unless he thinks it’s necessary,” she said.

On Monday we went to see the new paeditrician who observed my daughter as she breastfed and cried, switching arms from mine to the dad’s.

“So I am the third doctor you are seeing in a week?” he asked.
“Yes,” I answered.
“Your daughter is not sick, ” was the shocker.
I thought I heard him wrong. What did he mean our daughter is not sick? This girl in my hands who was shaking like a leaf, who hadn’t eaten anything in a week save for breast milk, and who was falling if she tried to even stand despite having taken her first steps months before?
The doctor said our daughter was teething and that the mistake we had done was to take her to hospital too early.

“She should never have been on those antibiotics,” he said.

He explained how baby teeth come out in mini phases hence the periods of intense pain, especially at night, explaining the screaming. He gave us a mini-lecture on how “us people” with insurance are quick to run to hospital instead of observing baby for a while.

“He asked me if I would have done all those trips if I was paying cash. I didn’t answer him but I thought that he must have been crazy if he thought I would have stayed with that baby in the house. It was that place of stress and worry and sleeplessness where staying with a sick baby in the house was not an option, cash or no cash.

Anyway, I liked this doctor because he inspired confidence in us. The heavy weight of worrying was lifted and we knew we were not missing something. He did not prescribe any medication or test, just told us to go home and continue with the antibiotics and to manage the fever.

Two days later, Little Missie started eating and the fever could now be managed on a six hour basis. A week later she was slowly walking. Yes, she had had new teeth coming out, but our regular paed still insists that teething should never make a baby sick or cause high fever. The verdict I suppose is still out there.


2 thoughts on “Is baby sick or just teething?

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