Can I tell if my child has cyanosis?
Parents can usually recognize cyanosis, but it is not always easy (even for physicians). This is especially true in children of darker complexions.
The best way to look for cyanosis is to look at the nail beds, lips and tongue, and to compare them to someone with a similar complexion. Usually a parent or sibling serves as a good comparison.
What if I think my child has cyanosis?
First, don't panic. Second, examine your child. Cyanosis limited exclusively to the hands, the feet and the area around the lips is known as acrocyanosis and is a normal finding in babies.
Cyanosis on the lips, tongue, head or torso is central cyanosis, and should be promptly evaluated by a physician.
What will my physician do if cyanosis is present?
It depends. First, your doctor will likely gather more historical information, perform a physical examination and obtain an oxygen saturation measurement. This latter test is completely painless, does not involve needles, and involves placing a special lighted “bandage” type probe on a finger or toe for a few minutes while the oxygen level is measured. This test will definitively determine if the level of oxygen is normal or low.
Depending on the findings your physician may be able to provide reassurance, or he / she may determine that additional evaluation or a consultation is necessary.
Alternatively, your doctor may decide that a consultation with a specialist is in order. Depending on his findings, he may request the services of a heart or lung specialist, the emergency room, or doctors specialized in intensive care.