What to Do When the Pediatrician’s Office is Closed

We are thrilled to be teaming up with Next Level Urgent Care once again for this sponsored post. Dr. Robbyn L. Traylor, MD is the Chief Medical Officer of Next Level Urgent Care, and today she is sharing fantastic advice for all of us parents during this busy holiday season.

This is the time of year when families are buzzing with holiday energy.  Everyone is planning the Thanksgiving menu and looking forward to time with friends.  Our children are constantly asking when traveling relatives will finally arrive in town.  Even the weather is giving us all the holiday feels as cooler temperatures sweep across Houston. Unfortunately, that holiday cheer is sometimes interrupted by acute illness.  Isn’t it funny how pesky germs seem to strike at the most inconvenient times – nights, weekends, and right before a planned trip. This is often complicated by a closed doctor’s office.  Believe me, doctors have families too, and occasionally we have to free ourselves from the awesome responsibility of caring for our patients in order to reconnect with loved ones. 

So what should you do/know when your pediatrician’s office is closed and you need help … now?  

1} Don’t let the illness get you down! 

Preserve your holiday cheer, and remember that you can always get help in Houston.   If you or your child are affected by acute illness, you can consider visiting a local urgent care clinic.  All of our Next Level Urgent Care clinics are open at 9am {some open as early as 7am}, and the clinics remain open until 9pm.  Our staff is fully prepared to provide you swift and affordable care in a reasonable amount of time.  No one wants to have to sit in a doctor’s office for hours at the holidays, right?  That is why we developed a Next Level Urgent Care app that allows you to wait in line and register for the visit from the convenience of your home.  When you use our free app, we can guarantee that you will be out of our clinic in under an hour – sometimes even faster.

2} Even if you are able to reach your primary physician by phone, the truth is that it is impossible for your doctor to give you an accurate diagnosis through a phone call. 

If your concern is cough and a fever, the diagnosis could be common cold … or something more severe like pneumonia.  When the concern is vomiting, it could be acute viral illness … or food poisoning.  The best way to arrive at a diagnosis is with testing and a good physical examination.  Being evaluated in a clinic is not only reassuring – it is oftentimes necessary.  The hallmark symptoms of strep throat are fever, headache, nausea, and sore throat.  Shockingly, sometimes an actual sore throat is the last symptom to manifest!  Generally speaking, fever, headache, and nausea could be anything.  Also, if you have a toddler with a cough and a fever, you may want to know whether or not they have a clear lung examination, or if they are battling Respiratory Syncytial Virus {RSV} which in severe cases may require hospitalization for supportive care. The only way to know for sure is through a physical examination and testing by a professional.

3} It’s flu season, y’all.

Sometimes families want medicine prophylaxis for influenza, but I only recommend taking it if you know for sure your family member has the flu.  This is another great reason to have a flu test, and not just simply diagnose based on symptoms.  It is important to be tested and properly evaluated by an experienced provider who can whittle down a differential diagnosis to the most likely culprit.  Your provider may also be able to educate you about ways to prevent acute illness from taking over your entire household.  A good place to start is with clean hands.  Lots of hand washing and hand sanitizer can go a long way to prevent acute illness.  

4} Most of the time acute illness is viral, and the only cure for viral illness is time. 

In children under six years old, many symptom relief remedies are not indicated for their care.  In those circumstances, even though curative options are limited, we can teach you treatment tricks to keep you and your children more comfortable while you manage the problem. Viral illnesses NEVER require antibiotics, and if your provider is not offering antibiotic therapy, I recommend that you break into a happy dance.  Antibiotics are pretty good for curing bacterial illness, but can actually prolong the symptoms of viral illness.  In the setting of viral illness, they are also a big waste of money.  A cold will never be cured by a Z-pack or amoxicillin.  Generally speaking, if my patient has an acute viral illness, I will not recommend antibiotics until day ten; this is a benchmark that was reached by evidence based medicine.  We know that viral illness takes days {sometimes weeks} to resolve, but in the setting of inflammation cased by viral illness, sometimes bacteria are able set up shop in your body.  Occasionally, people are able to fight off bacterial illness without antibiotics, but sometimes medication is unavoidable.  Day ten antibiotic therapy reduces your exposure to unnecessary antibiotics and drug-resistant bacteria, it gives you and your child time to get over illness on your own, and it helps you to save antibiotic therapy for when it is medically indicated.   

5} When your child has fever, you never have to wait to treat it. 

An elevated temperature is called fever when it reaches 100.4 F.  However, even when the measured temperature does not reach fever criteria, you can still give acetaminophen {Tylenol} or Ibuprofen {Motrin or Advil} for comfort.  This is my favorite recommendation to give parents, and it is something that I do for my children when they are not feeling well.  Those medications can be great for restoring a regular temperature and easing all kinds of discomfort like sore throat, headache, and joint pain.  Another great thing about having Tylenol and Ibuprofen in your medicine cabinet is that you can alternate those therapies every 3 hours as needed for fever or pain.  For example, if you give ibuprofen at 7am, you can give Tylenol at 10am and ibuprofen again at 1pm.  

Other great treatments for fever include cool liquids.  This can be hard to achieve with an ill child, so you have to be cunning.  Your goal is to have your little one sip cool liquids all day.  Cool liquids include water and Pedialyte, but can also include Jell-O and Popsicles.  Even if they never chug-a-lug, by constantly sneaking in those cool fluids, you are having a positive impact on temperature and hydration status.  You never have to let a fever burn, and your doctor does not need a demonstration of fever in the office.  We trust your reporting, so try to keep a fever diary at home.  You may also consider jotting down food and drink consumption, a wet diaper count, and notes on sleep to help your provider understand the impact of the acute illness which can be mild or severe.  

Other Tips ‘n Tricks

Sore Throats.

Sore throat is a little tricky.  We know that 80-90 percent of the time, sore throat is caused by sequelae related to viral illness like post nasal drip or inflammation.  Most of the time I recommend an antihistamine like Claritin or Zyrtec for managing sore throat and congestion.  Another great option is a nasal steroid spray like Flonase.  Throat lozenges can be comforting, but should never be used at bedtime.  Zinc preparations like Cold Eeze and Zicam can also offer temporary relief of congestion symptoms at the start of a cold when you first notice that scratchy throat feeling. 

Coughs & Congestion.

In my opinion, there is no such thing as a great cough remedy.  Your best option is to try to control the congestion that causes cough.  Your doctor may prescribe a syrup to try, but there are decent over-the-counter options that have ingredients to thin mucous, slow mucous production, and dry mucous.  Cough remedies should really be called congestion control therapies; most of them don’t really work directly on cough.  Furthermore, cough medicines are not recommended for children under six.  If your child is coughing a lot, it is probably because of copious congestion running from the nose, through the throat, and down into the lungs.  I strongly recommend that you have a provider listen to the lungs to rule out a diagnosis like asthma, but if it’s just congestion from a cold, then you can teach your child to gently blow their nose and sleep in a reclined, rather than laying, position.  Ultimately, it sometimes takes up to four weeks for a pesky cough to resolve after a cold.

Alternative Options.

If you are like me, then you also like to try holistic options which can be good for the body and the soul.  Warm tea with honey is a great option for anyone suffering with sore throat and cough.  Eucalyptus vapor and mentholated balms can offer instant satisfaction for a stuffy nose and a grumpy attitude.  Peppermint tea, oils, and candies are also wonderful and portable therapies that offer relief wherever you are.  And let us not forget the magical healing powers of good old-fashioned chicken soup which has elements that help to rid the body of mucous, calm inflammation, and give us the best side effect ever – a good night of sleep. 

Wow, what amazing advice from not only a fantastic doctor, but a mom herself! So, mamas, if the germs threaten to take down your family this holiday season, we encourage you to remember the advice above and don’t forget about our friends at Next Level Urgent Care with 9 convenient Houston locations. I personally have such peace of mind knowing that I have trusted providers at the ready to take care of my kiddos when my regular doctor is closed or simply overwhelmed with sick patients. We are also thrilled that you can look forward to regular advice, tips ‘n tricks, and more from our incredible sponsors at Next Level over the next year!

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About Robbyn L. Traylor, MD

Robbyn is a 6th generation Texan who was raised in Fort Bend county. She graduated from Kempner High School in 1997, and matriculated to Prairie View A&M University where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. After this she attended the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio School of Medicine where she graduated in 2005. Dr. Traylor attended the Wesley Family Medicine residency program, and is now a board-certified family physician. During her professional career, she has gained experience in primary care, emergency medicine, and immediate care.  Dr. Traylor has worked for Next Level Urgent Care since Spring of 2014 and now serves as Chief Medical Officer.  She is grateful for the opportunity to provide quality care for patients of all ages in the greater Houston area. In her spare time Dr. Traylor enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time with her family.

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