Get Help With a Sick Kid Fast: Why We Used an Advice Nurse Service


Our health insurance’s advice nurse services were a much-needed lifeline when we became brand new parents. “Is that normal?” was a frequent question. In Junior’s first year, he was sick—a lot. And we called the advice nurse—a lot. Your health insurance’s medical advice hotline might be a resource you’ve not thought of using. But from our experience, it was a valued lifeline.

Our Experience

Adult holding infant hand
Photo by Aditya Romansa on Unsplash

We called when:

  • His coughs didn’t sound right;
  • He threw up twice in one night;
  • His temperature went past 102F.

Once we got past the phone trees and typing in Junior’s insurance member number, we would eventually get a nurse (or someone) who asked us a series of questions. The advice nurse would always ask if he was lethargic.

He would usually be:

  1. Screaming;
  2. Fighting us and screaming;
  3. Screaming and crying.

Nope. He was hardly ever lethargic. Seriously, he has enough energy to power a small town.

She’d usually ask about his temperature. After a few calls to the advice line, we realized we needed to invest in an ear thermometer. We tried the rectal thermometer. No one likes the rectal thermometer, not the parents, and definitely not the baby.

After the back and forth, and depending on our answers, she’d ask us if we wanted to schedule an appointment with our pediatrician. Most times it was just a precaution, just to check things out. But for most calls we didn’t need to do anything spectacular, maybe a small change in diet, elevating his head or watchful waiting.

At the end of the call, we had greater peace of mind than before we called. When your little one is sick and not feeling well you can imagine the worst. We had books about babies and health, but in the moment, while holding a sick kid, there isn’t any time to go flipping through pages. Searching on-line can send us down a rabbit hole. It’s just nice to get a sympathetic second opinion who can walk us back from our worst fears.


Obviously, if a child is having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1. If a child has swallowed poison or something they shouldn’t, call poison control at 1-800-222-1222. But for those non-emergency situations, consider calling your insurance provider’s advice nurse line. Below are the numbers for some of the major insurers in the Washington, DC area.

Baby looking over shoulder
Photo by Sabine van Straaten on Unsplash