When you’re a new mom, it can be stressful and challenging to tell apart a healthy baby from a sick baby. Knowing the tell-tale signs that your baby is sick can clue you in on what to feed and what to do for a sick infant. Perhaps most commonly, babies get colds many times a year, so it’s best to know the early indicators of sickness.
Signs Your Baby Is Sick | How To Nurse Your Baby Back to Good Health
A fever is a sign that your baby’s body is fighting an infection. You can try lowering your baby’s fever by placing a cool, damp cloth on your child’s forehead while they are resting. A lukewarm sponge bath can also bring your child’s temperature down. Seek medical help right away if you notice the following symptoms:
- Your baby is less than 3 months old with a temperature above 100.4°F or 38°C
- Your baby is 3 to 6 months old and has a temperature above 101°F or 38.3°C
- Other signs: a rash, poor feeding, trouble breathing, persistent vomiting, or diarrhea
If your baby cries more than usual or has a change in activity level, this may be a sign that your child is sick. They might feel lethargic or listless, with little to no energy. It’s best to ensure they get the proper amount of sleep by establishing a sleeping routine.
Lethargy is a symptom associated with conditions such as colds, influenza, or meningitis. This common symptom can develop over time, so parents might not recognize it right away. It’s best to check for other signs of sickness accompanied by lethargy. This can help determine the treatment for your baby’s condition.
Crying is the only language a baby uses to communicate. They develop different cries depending on their needs: sleep, food, or a diaper change. Over time, parents are able to respond to the varying cries and console their baby. A sick baby who becomes very irritable with long crying periods may be sick or in pain. Since it’s hard to tell for sure, this makes it much more difficult for parents to console their crying baby.
It’s a challenge to pinpoint the exact reason for their incessant cries. An infant’s irritability may be a sign of constipation, abdominal pain, an earache, or an infection. If your baby has constipation, you can try relieving their upset tummies with some safe home remedies. Another option to calm your baby is to swaddle them in a blanket. While walking around, rock your baby or offer a pacifier. If all else fails, a pediatrician can help determine what the crying is all about.
Spitting up is the mild vomiting or regurgitation of food, milk, and saliva that occurs in infants. If your baby spits up once or twice, this is normal. Observe your baby for signs of dehydration and assess their diet. Seek medical attention right away if your sick baby experiences frequent vomiting. If your child has an illness which causes a lot of vomiting, you may need to keep them off solid foods for a while. Furthermore, vomit which contains blood or is green in color may also be a sign of a more serious condition.
Dehydration can occur if the baby has a poor appetite, or has frequent vomiting or diarrhea. An environment that is too warm for babies can also contribute to dehydration. The following are signs that your sick baby has dehydration:
- Dry mouth and gums
- Diaper wetting is less frequent
- No tears shed when crying
- The soft spot on the top of the head, or the fontanel, appears sunken
If your baby is younger than 3 months, you’ll need to maintain breastfeeding. Your doctor may also recommend offering your baby the breast more often. For babies 3 months or older, you might need to give your baby a pediatric electrolyte solution. This special liquid can replenish water and electrolytes lost with dehydration.
Passing stools frequently is common in babies. However, bright red or black-colored blood in the baby’s poop is definitely a cause for concern. If your baby has watery poop more than six times in a day, they may not be taking enough fluids. This could also be a sign of dehydration, so make sure to provide your baby plenty of liquids. If your sick baby can take solid foods, remember the word BRAT. This means bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. These foods can help cause the bulking and hardening of your baby’s stool.
7. Difficulty Breathing
Call your doctor immediately if your baby shows signs of troubled breathing:
- The tissue between the ribs or in the upper abdomen of they baby caves in when they inhale
- Grunting while exhaling
- Breathing is more rapid than usual
- Head bobbing
- Lips and skin develop a slightly blue tinge
It would also be helpful to take note of the sounds they make when they breathe. Some breathing sounds can be indicative of a specific illness.
- Whistling noise – the nostrils are most likely clogged with mucus or dried milk
- Deep cough – may be a blockage in the large bronchi leading to the lungs
- Wheezing on inhaling and exhaling – blockage in the small airways of the lungs or asthma
- Barking cough – a sign of mucus in the windpipe. This might also be croup, a common but worrisome respiratory virus in small children.
It is normal for a baby to have rashes, which may be the result of diaper rashes or allergies. You can treat rashes by using plain water or mild baby soap. Also, bathe your baby every 2 to 3 days only. If the rash covers a large area, especially their face, this may be a sign of a more grave condition. If your baby also has a fever with rashes, check if the rashes are bleeding or swelling, or if they look infected. Your doctor will need to check your baby for other symptoms of eczema, measles, or meningitis.
9. Navel Is Oozing or Bleeding
The umbilical cord will fall off your baby’s navel within 10 to 14 days after birth. Umbilical bleeding with a few drops of blood is normal. You can clean this with a baby wipe, or mild soap and water. If your baby’s navel or umbilical remnant is bleeding or oozing, this can be a serious infection. The skin around the cord may also appear red. There might be foul-smelling, pus-like drainage around the belly button. In this case, seek medical attention right away.
Colds occur because of a virus and are common in babies. On average, they last one or two weeks. Colds are usually accompanied by a runny nose, fever, and poor appetite for a few days. Coughing may last as long as two to three weeks. Elevate your baby’s head a bit to help ease their breathing. Give them plenty of liquids, including breast milk or formula and water. The following symptoms accompanying the cold may require a visit to the doctor:
- Temperature is above 100.4°F or 38°C (for babies less than 3 months old)
- Temperature is above 101°F or 38.3°C (for babies 3 to 6 months old)
- Difficulty breathing
- Irritability and more frequent crying
- Cough is severe – almost nonstop or brings up blood
- Frequent vomiting
- Symptoms last more than two weeks
Is your baby feeling under the weather? Watch this video on How to Care for a Sick Baby from Mothercare:
These symptoms can help you determine signs of potentially worrisome illnesses. Parents know their babies best. If you do feel your baby has a serious condition, call your doctor right away. Heed the signs to nurse your baby back to health in no time.
How do you care for your sick infant? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below!