Assessment of the unwell child

Aust Fam Physician. 2010 May;39(5):270-5.


Background: Children present to general practitioners with a wide range of problems, but most of the time they are not particularly unwell. Children with a more serious illness often compensate very well initially, so there is a risk that their illness will be overlooked or underestimated.

Objective: To outline the early recognition and management of children who are seriously ill.

Discussion: The initial assessment of an unwell child includes the paediatric assessment triangle: appearance, breathing and circulation to skin; primary survey that focuses on basic life support, patient assessment and immediate management; secondary survey with a detailed history of the event and physical examination; and ongoing assessment. Medical practitioners and their clinic staff must be prepared to undertake initial emergency management of a seriously ill child, and they must have the equipment and supplies available to carry out that management effectively.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Australia
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques
  • Critical Illness / therapy*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods
  • Emergencies
  • Family Practice / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pediatrics / standards
  • Pediatrics / trends
  • Physical Examination
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / therapy
  • Risk Assessment
  • Treatment Outcome