Is My Child Sick?


Consider specific signs:

  • Fever: Taking the temperature is essential when the illness begins; later, it may not be as important if the child is improving.  Any elevated temperature in an infant less than 8 weeks of age, or a persistently elevated temperature in an older child needs prompt attention.  Healthy babies may normally have temperatures up to 99.4 axillary or 100.4 rectally.
  • Weakness: A weak suck, feeble cry and decreased muscle tone (limp like a doll) are signs of illness, which require medical attention.
  • Irritability: Crying inconsolably, inability to be calmed and difficulty in settling to sleep also require prompt attention.  Healthy babies often behave this way during the second month of life.
  • Vomiting: Vomiting can commonly occur after coughing, but is of more concern when it is not related to coughing.  Healthy babies may vomit or have wet burps occasionally without any illness.
  • Diarrhea: Diarrhea is an increase in the number of stools or a change toward a looser consistency.  Bloody stools always require prompt attention.  Healthy babies may normally have loose green stools, especially if the baby is breast-fed.
  • Dehydration: With persistent vomiting and diarrhea, you should look for signs of dehydration.  If your child is urinating, even if it is decreased in amount, she is probably not dehydrated.  Besides fewer wet diapers, other signs of dehydration are dry eyes (no tears present when crying), dry mouth (tongue, gums), and sunken looking eyes. An infant should have a few wet diapers each day.  If you are not sure if your child is dehydrated, you should call the office for advice.
  • Signs of Meningitis: A bulging soft spot in an infant, or the inability to flex the neck (touch the chin to the chest as if nodding “yes”) in a child older than one year are signs of meningitis.  Usually these are associated with fever and persistent vomiting.
  • Sneezing, coughing, nasal congestion, nasal discharge: These signs are usually not a problem in a child who is otherwise well appearing.  During a common cold, secretions from the nose often change from white or clear to thick, yellow-green after a few days.  This is not a sign that a bacterial infection requiring antibiotics is developing.  Healthy babies normally have noisy breathing, coughing, sneezing and congestion.
  • Decreased sociability, appetite and energy level: These signs are more worrisome if they are severe or change abruptly than if they are mild or change gradually.

How Sick Is My Child?

  1. Consider the duration of signs:
    • Temperature greater than 104.5 F (rectally), continuous vomiting, persistent lethargy or irritability, severe difficulty breathing or wheezing, blood in stools or vomitus, or extreme pain are major danger signs, even of short duration, which require immediate attention.
    • Respiratory symptoms (coughing, sneezing and congestion) and gastrointestinal symptoms (decreased appetite, mild diarrhea and vomiting) usually start to improve after 24-72 hours and the total duration of these symptoms is 7 to 10 days.  Usually by the fifth day children are improving or appear well.  The failure to improve after the acute (the first 24 to 72 hours) suggests the need to call the office for advice or examination.  It is normal for secretions to change from clear and thin to green and thick with a common cold.  If this is the only change, antibiotics are not necessary.
  2. Consider the development of new signs:
    Pain: the development of severe pain (crying, difficulty to calm, inability to sleep well) may signify a bacterial complication such as an ear or sinus infection developing from a common cold.
    Lethargy or weakness: A dramatic change in energy level may signify dehydration developing from intestinal infection or a bacterial infection developing from a mild viral illness.
    Vomiting or headache: Development of these signs may signify the development of an upset stomach, streptococcal throat infection, or meningitis.
    New, but not severe symptoms develop: Children may develop OVERLAPPING infections such that before the first infection finishes (3 to 7 days), a second infection starts to develop.  This is common if your child is around other children and especially, if these other children have older siblings, then the sharing of germs is much greater.  The result is an apparent illness lasting for weeks, but is really many illnesses which are OVERLAPPING each other.
    • If your child is suddenly more ill during the course of a mild illness,
    • Your child may need prompt medical attention.
  3. Consider the progression of signs:
    Time of day: pain is always more intense in the evening and fever rises at night.  Appearing a little more ill at night usually does not mean your child is getting worse.
    Increasing fever, pain, vomiting, diarrhea: After the illness first begins, if on each subsequent day your child appears to be more ill, prompt medical attention may be needed because this suggests a more serious infection or the development of a bacterial complication.
    Progressive worsening: or a failure to improve after 24 to 72 hours suggests a more serious illness.
    Sometimes better, sometimes worse: An up/down picture where your child has good times and bad times are typical for mild viral infections.  This pattern may last well beyond the 7 day course for a particular infection if there are OVERLAPPING infections.
    Was improving, now worse: A new mild viral infection or a bacterial infection may be developing.  Observation over a period of hours or a call to the office may clarify how to proceed.


Call whenever you think your child is sick and you are uncertain of what to do. Please call early in the day.  Before placing the call, try to think chronologically: When did the various signs develop?  When the illness has been prolonged or there have been many different problems, look at a calendar and write down some notes before calling.  Before placing the call, try to think about severity; what appears to be bothering the child the most?  Before placing the call, consider your level of comfort as different from the severity of your child’s signs. You are then better able to communicate and we are better able to respond to you.

“This is an emergency because my child is…”
“This is not an emergency but I think my child needs to be seen today because he is…”
“This is not an emergency but I feel very uncomfortable with her illness and I want to know that there is nothing seriously wrong with her.”


Nurses in this office have excellent training, personal experience in caring for their own children and they work closely with the doctors.  Please have the confidence when you call that you are speaking to a skilled professional and that she will discuss the situation with the doctor or pediatric nurse practitioner.

Have something to write with when you call, so you can make notes.

Please tell us in the beginning if the call is being placed only because of the concern of someone other than the caller.  For example, your mother-in-law feels that you should call, but you do not think that your child is ill.

If your child is fairly active, sociable (smiling, playful), and interested in what is going on around him, his illness is probably not severe enough to cause you to be alarmed.

Please do not use the word “emergency” when your child’s condition has not really changed, but all that has changed is that you are now much more worried.  There is a natural tendency to do this, especially when the office is closed.

Sick children may be seen at the Walk-in only at 8am Monday-Friday & only at 10am Sat-Sun.
At all other times, if you want a same day appointment, call first and press 3.

Northwestern Children's Practice

Pediatricians located in Gold Coast, Chicago, IL

The Northwestern Children’s Practice team educates parents to help them raise healthy and loving children and educates children to help them develop healthy habits. As one of the best pediatrician offices in Chicago, our health care providers are dedicated to providing anticipatory guidance to help families navigate from one visit to the next. Founded by Dr. Marc Weissbluth in 1973, the Northwestern Children’s Practice continues to thrive in Chicago’s Gold Coast, a few blocks away from Lurie Children’s Hospital. This welcoming team of experienced child health advocates cares for families in the Chicago-land area and beyond. The Northwestern Children’s Practice offers annual check-ups, lactation support, adolescent visits, sports physicals, vaccines, and more. Besides providing health care for children from infancy through young adulthood, the practice has doctors and nurse practitioners that specialize in sleep consultations, nutrition, and weight management counseling, treatment and prevention of childhood obesity and safe immunization practices. Several of our nurses are trained as lactation consultants to provide support during newborn well-visits. Our lactation consultants and doctors also lead a weekly support group for new parents. Topics often discussed are newborn feeding, including breastfeeding, sleep, development, and safety. 

The Northwestern Children’s Practice has continued to grow throughout the years and now includes a team of doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses and office staff who work together to provide comprehensive care with individualized attention. The office is located several blocks from Lurie Children’s Hospital, Prentice Women’s Hospital, and Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Patients can be seen at Northwestern Children’s Practice’s convenient walk-in clinic at 8-11 am, Monday through Friday and at 10 am on Saturday and Sunday. No appointments are necessary for the walk-in clinic. Scheduled visits are available Monday through Friday as well as a limited number of well-visits on both Saturday and Sunday. 


  • We offer complimentary prenatal visits to expecting parents as a forum for the concerns of new parents. We have an exchange of information to discuss any prenatal issues, family history of medical issues, what to expect in the hospital, what to expect from your doctor visits in the hospital and what to expect during the transition to home. We will discuss important things to think about including newborn feeding, circumcision, vaccines and newborn screening tests.

    We also offer similar visits to adoptive families and to families who are considering changing pediatricians.

  • Come in for your school physical!

    Make sure your child is up to date with vaccines. At the 11 year old visit we recommend the 3 adolescent vaccines including Tdap, Meningitis and HPV.

    At the 16 year old visit we give a booster for meningitis, and we initiate the Meningitis Type B vaccine series.

    To learn more about the HPV vaccine, please click here.

    To learn more about the Meningitis Type B vaccine, Please click here.

    American Academy of Pediatrics, 


  • We have walk-in clinic hours 7 days/week. Patients can be seen at 8 am by physicians and pediatric nurse practitioners on Monday through Friday. Later walk-in hours with a nurse practitioner are available until 11 am also on Monday through Friday.

    Patients can be seen during our weekend walk-in clinic hours on Saturday and Sunday at 10 am.  

    No appointment is necessary


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Accepted Insurance Plans

Listed are the major insurance providers we accept. Contact your insurance company or Human Resources to verify if we are in network with your specific plan. Please note, currently, we are out of network for all Marketplace Health Insurances.

Coventry Health Care
Land of Lincoln Health
Multiplan PHCS
United Healthcare

Words from our patients

  • Yelp

    "I have been taking my 6 month old son to NCP since he was born and I have only encountered top level service and medical advice from the doctors and nurses."

    Don J.
  • Yelp

    "We've been going to NCP for almost ten years...I am more than ecstatic to say that they've been very dedicated and have always been there for our family health issues."

    Sylvia O.
  • Yelp

    "They are in tune with our girls, proactive about health care and give honest, practical advice. We moved out to the suburbs but will not stop going to this practice..."

    Pam B.
  • Google+

    "Very happy with my experience with NCP for my three children! Our primary is Dr. Hirsh but had great experiences with Drs. Unger, Li, King and Goldstein as well!"

    Sanna B.
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Northwestern Children's Practice
680 North Lake Shore Drive
Suite 1050
Chicago, IL 60611