Trust a mother's intuition, doctors told

11:44AM, Feb 4th 2010

Mother's intuition, that sense of knowing something is wrong without knowing what it is, has long been dismissed as paranoia and an old wives' tale. Now experts are advising GPs that if a parent believes there's something wrong with their child's health, they're usually right.

Mother's intuition, that sense of knowing something is wrong without knowing what it is, has long been dismissed as paranoia and an old wives' tale. Now experts are advising GPs that if a parent believes there's something wrong with their child's health, they're usually right.

New research published in The Lancet medical journal advises doctors to add parent's instinct to a list of signs that they should look for when treating sick children, the UK's Daily Mail reported.

"As a GP, it's important to always be alert to parents who are especially concerned about their child," Dr Matthew Thompson, GP and senior clinical scientists at Oxford University, told the Daily Mail.

"We should usually trust parents' instincts. After all, they will have nursed their child through many minor illnesses before and often can tell when something is different."

Doctors should also trust their own instincts when determining whether a child is seriously ill, the study reported.

"Red flags", including a temperature of over 40°C, rapid breathing, poor circulation at the skin's surface and rashes of small purple and red spots, are all signs that a child has more than a simple cold.

The advice has been released to help doctors identify children with more serious infections, such as meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis which can often have very vague symptoms.

"For doctors, it's a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. Serious infections are rare and getting increasingly rarer thanks to vaccination," Dr Thompson said.

"Identifying that one child out of all those many with minor ailments is difficult. It is complicated further as the child may be seen at any early stage of infection before it is possible to recognise its severity."

The team who conducted the research want to develop a checklist for doctors so that children who are seriously ill are identified and taken to hospital sooner.

"Doctors should routinely check for these warning signs in every sick child they see. For example, not all GPs will check a child's temperature, whereas we would now suggest this is done on all occasions," said Dr Ann Van den Bruel, a co-author of the Oxford University study.

"Parents shouldn't try to assess these red flags themselves, it would only add to any uncertainty or anxiety they may already be feeling. However, parents can take heart that we found they are very good at picking up signs that their child is unwell."

Have you ever just known there was something wrong with your child? Share your story below.

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