News | Published April 19, 2013 | Written by Craig Collison, MD, pediatrics, Mount Nittany Physician Group

Deciding whether to treat at home or take to the doctor

Should you treat your child’s illness at home or take them to the pediatrician? Parents often wrestle with this big question. The following will provide some guidelines to help answer this question for a few specific conditions.


  • Treat at home: A fever under 103 degrees F that accompanies the beginnings of upper respiratory infections or a fever lasting less than two days and that isn’t associated with severe symptoms (respiratory distress, mental status changes)
  • Take to the pediatrician: A fever at 104 degrees F or more, a fever that lasts more than two days, a fever that is associated with other concerning symptoms or a fever that starts or recurs later in an illness.

Runny Nose:

  • Treat at home: A runny nose not associated with respiratory distress, with no pain of the cheeks and above the eyes (sinuses), or symptoms occurring for less than 10 days
  • Take to the pediatrician: A runny nose for more than 10 days, a runny nose that is associated with facial pain or more than two days of fever, or a runny nose with a significant cough


  • Treat at home: A mild cough with minimal sleep disruption and no fever
  • Take to the pediatrician: Severe cough, a cough that lasts more than 10 days, a cough that is associated with breathing troubles, or a cough and fever lasting more than two days at start of an upper respiratory infection

Breathing Trouble:

  • Treat at home: If the child is a known asthmatic and has albuterol and/or inhaled steroids, try these at home (but go to the doctor if they’re not relieving mild symptoms)
  • Take to the pediatrician: All other scenarios of breathing trouble should be evaluated

Vomiting and/or Diarrhea:

  • Treat at home: Mild symptoms; able to get some fluids in with some urine output
  • Take to the pediatrician: Vomiting associated with fever, dehydration or blood in vomit; diarrhea associated with fever, dehydration or blood in stool; or either vomiting or diarrhea that persists for more than 48 hours


  • Treat at home: Mild recurring rashes or recognizable rashes that can be treated with over-the-counter treatments
  • Take to the pediatrician: Any rash that you are unsure of or is associated with a fever or illness

Chest Pain:

  • Treat at home: It is not recommended that you treat chest pain at home
  • Take to the pediatrician: This is a complaint where the child should always be checked by the pediatrician

I hope that these clues will give you an idea whether or not to bring your child in. If parents ever have doubts or are feeling uncomfortable with their child’s condition, then a visit to the pediatrician is always warranted.

At Mount Nittany Physician Group’s pediatrics department, we have nurses who are available on the phone from 8:00 am - 5:00 pm every weekday to help you decide if an appointment is necessary. You can reach our Bellefonte office by calling 814.355.3626 or our Boalsburg office by calling 814.466.7921. If your child is experiencing an emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately. For more information on your child’s health, visit or sign up for my monthly Parents Need to Know e-newsletter.