Irritability is an excessive response to stimuli.
The term "irritability" is used for infants and young children who, when ill, are especially fussy, whiny, and fretful, despite attempts at comforting and soothing them.
Parents are usually very aware of their child's normal behavior and may pick up early changes that the health care provider wouldn't notice. This can help diagnose illness early.
Irritability can be a very early sign of serious problems. Although irritability is not a symptom of any specific illness, it should arouse suspicion in the parent that something might be wrong with the child, even though there may not yet be other symptoms.
Causes of irritability include:
Attempt to soothe the child with usual measures -- rocking, cuddling, or whatever the child normally finds soothing. If the child cannot be consoled, consult your health care provider.
Watch the child for other symptoms such as:
Contact your health care provider if your child is irritable or inconsolable, with or without other symptoms.
The health care provider will take a medical history and perform a physical examination. Tests may include:
Medical history questions documenting irritability in detail may include:
After seeing your health care provider, you may want to add a diagnosis related to irritability to your personal medical record.
McCarthy PL. Evaluation of the sick child in the office and clinic. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 60.
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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