Being a parent can be scary enough.
Don’t let these every day parenting issues freak you out even more.
Be prepared for when you child eats a bug, has a night terror, or wakes up barking like a seal.
- Breath holding spells – in a typical breath holding spell, a young child cries, either from a tantrum or a fall, etc., and then holds his breath (involuntarily) and briefly passes out. Although it sounds scary and the episode might look like a seizure, these kids usually quickly wake up and are fine after. Kids who have breath holding spells are often prone to repeated spells though, so you do want to warm other caregivers so they don’t freak out if your child has one. Eventually, kids outgrow having them.
- Febrile Seizures – parents often describe their child’s first febrile seizure as ‘the worst moment of their life.’ Febrile seizures typically occur when a fever rises rapidly, but although they are scary, they are usually brief, stop without treatment, don’t cause any problems, and most kids outgrow having them by the time they are about five years old.
- Nosebleeds – a nosebleed that doesn’t stop is certainly scary, but with proper treatment, most nosebleeds will stop in ten to twenty minutes (if not sooner), even if your child wakes up in the middle of the night with a bloody nose for what you think is no reason.
- Night terrors – often confused for nightmares, a child having a night terror will wake up in the early part of the night yelling and screaming, which is why parents think their child is having a nightmare. The scary thing though, is that their child will be confused, likely won’t recognize you, and might act terrified – and it all might last for as long as 45 minutes or more. Fortunately, night terrors are normal. Your child likely won’t even remember what happened the next morning. And they eventually stop.
- Eating a Bug – “Kids eat bugs all the time. Few if any symptoms are likely to occur.” – that’s a quote from the National Capital Poison Center, who must get more than a few calls from worried parents about their kids eating bugs. Or finding the evidence later – when you see a dead bug in their diaper…
- High Fever – pediatricians have done a lot of education about fever phobia over the years, but parents often still get scared that a high fever is going to cause brain damage or hurt their child in some other way. Try to remember that fever is just another symptom and doesn’t tell you how sick your child is.
- Playing Doctor – even though it’s natural for young kids to be curious about their bodies, the average parent is likely going to be scared and upset if they “catch” their kids playing doctor. Understand that it is usually a normal part of child development and don’t turn it into a problem by making it into more than it is.
- Hives – a child with classic hives might have a red raised rash develop suddenly all over his body. And since hives are very itchy, that child is probably going to be miserable, which can make hives very scary, even though without other symptoms (like vomiting or trouble breathing), they typically aren’t a sign of a serious allergic reaction. The other thing about hives that can be scary is that even when they go away with a dose of Benadryl, they often come back – sometimes for days, but often for weeks. And your pediatrician might not be able to tell you what triggered them.
- Croup – your child goes to bed fine, but then wakes up in the middle of the night with a strange cough that sounds like a barking seal, has a hoarse cry, and it seems like he is wheezing. Scary, right? Sure, but if you realize he probably has croup and that some time in the bathroom with a hot shower (getting the room steamy can often calm his breathing), you’ll be ready for this common viral infection.
- Choking – while choking can be a life-threatening emergency, most episodes of choking aren’t. In addition to learning CPR and how to prevent choking, remember that if you child “is still able to speak or has a strong cough” then you may not have to do anything, except maybe 911 if he or she is having some breathing difficulties. It is when your child is choking and can not breath at all (and can’t talk and isn’t coughing) that you need to quickly react and do the Heimlich Maneuver while someone calls 911.
Even with a little foreknowledge and preparation, many of these very common pediatric issues are scary. Don’t hesitate or be afraid to call your pediatrician for more help.
For More Information on Things That Scare Parents
- Breath-Holding Spells
- AAP – Febrile Seizures
- AAP – Nightmares and Night Terrors in Preschoolers
- AAP – AAP Issues Advice on Managing Fevers in Children
- AAP – Responding to a Choking Emergency
- Red Cross – Child & Baby CPR
- Red Cross – Conscious Choking
Last Updated on December 14, 2016 by Vincent Iannelli, MD