New symptom checker helps parents in Northern Ireland decide if children need to attend hospital

The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust has launched a paediatric symptom checker, allowing parents to decide if their child needs to visit the emergency department.

The symptom checker has been developed in partnership with the 'Healthier Together Programme' and Alder Hey Hospital and can be accessed online.

Health officials said it provides ‘trusted’ advice to parents on common symptoms seen in emergency departments across the country.

The 'easy to use and informative online tool’ aims to allow parents to decide for themselves if their child needs to go to the emergency department.

It is aimed at ensuring children can get access the most appropriate care.

Dr Sarah Kapur, general paediatric consultant at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, stressed the tool was not meant to put parents off bringing their children to A&E.

“We would much rather see a child who does not need to be there than not see one who does need to be there,” she said.

"However, we hope this symptom checker can provide some reassurance in addition to GP Services, Pharmacies and other aspects of the healthcare system.”

The website includes information on everything from tummy aches to nose bleeds and works on a traffic light system, guiding parents through what to do in different situations.

If a child is determined to have "red light" symptoms, requiring immediate emergency care, they should be taken straight to hospital.

'Amber light' symptoms are less urgent than red but still require on the day care, such as a visit to a GP or the out-of-hours doctor.

'Green light' symptoms are not severe, and the website has a list of at-home remedies to try to improve a child’s condition.

Health Minister Robin Swann added: “I very much welcome the launch of this paediatric symptom checker. My thanks go all to those who have worked on its development.

Dr Julie Anne Maney, Emergency Consultant at Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, said: “This is an excellent, informative tool which is designed, not to replace the advice we provide in hospital, but as a guide to parents who are sometimes not sure of the right course of action to take.

“Children regularly get sick, they can get up to ten colds every year when they are very young, which is their immune system developing responses to the infections we are all exposed to every day. We recognise that this can be worrying for parents and want to help by providing high quality, easy to follow advice.”

To visit the symptom checker click here.

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