Parents know they don’t have to take their child to a doctor for every minor ailment. But how do you know when it’s time to give up on the home remedies and get a proper medical examination? We spoke to some experts.


A fever – a temperature of at least 38.5ºC – can be especially alarming for parents. “A fever is not essentially something bad, though,” notes paediatrician Till Dresbach. “It indicates that the body is defending itself against pathogens. If the child is still active, playing and drinking normally, there’s probably nothing to worry about.”

But if the child is listless, bedridden and not drinking, it is advisable to see a doctor. Drinking plenty of fluids is especially important. “Fluid requirements rise 20% for every degree of body temperature,” Dresbach says.

Parents should definitely take a feverish baby to the doctor, adds paediatrician Hermann Josef Kahl.


Drinking plenty of fluids is paramount, says pharmacist Ursula Sellerberg. Sometimes a cough syrup containing ivy leaf extract or cowslip brings relief. Rubbing the child’s chest with oil of lavender, for example, can also help.

But a doctor should be consulted if the child is under two, or also has a fever or earache. Coughing up yellowish-green or bloody phlegm is also a warning sign, as is a cough that lasts longer than two weeks.


Saline solution from a pharmacy can often be used instead of a decongestant nasal spray, Dresbach says.

It’s important that the nose be unclogged at bedtime. “Then a decongestant nasal spray can be used,” he advises – but not for more than a few days. If the child also has a fever of more than 39 degrees, a visit to a doctor is a good idea.


Here, too, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids, Kahl says. If a fever is also present, then parents should take the child to a doctor because the cause could be a throat infection like tonsillitis. “If the throat is so sore that the child can no longer swallow, it’s best to see a doctor,” Dresbach says.


One possible cause is a concussion, Kahl says, so parents should first try to determine whether the child has bumped his or her head in the preceding two weeks. If it’s a young child, they should play it safe and consult a doctor. Otherwise the child should drink plenty of fluids, which is also recommended for diarrhoea.


Unless the child has come into contact with a dangerous substance, parents should simply keep an eye on it at first.

“A nonspecific rash is never really anything acutely threatening,” Dresbach says. But if a sore throat is also present or the child’s general condition worsens, it could be scarlet fever. A visit to a doctor is then in order. – dpa/Elena Zelle