I remember years ago when we first brought our first born home. It was the middle of April and the temperature was in the 80’s. The nurse had given us a bottle of water for our baby girl to take with us because of the heat. We arrived home, the day after Easter. No one was there except Mommy, Daddy, baby Lori, and our curious dog, PT. We were thrilled and enjoying the peace and quiet, until…

How to Know My Baby is Sick?

After we were settled in, I was resting and baby Lori was fussy so her new daddy gave her some water, as the nurse had suggested. Well, Lori screamed at the top of her lungs! I came running from the bedroom – what had happened I asked!

My very worried husband didn’t know. He had just given her water. I felt panic fill me. Was our new baby sick? How would I be able to tell?

Well, in this case, I found out quickly. I took the baby from Daddy and the water bottle, too. The bottle was ice cold! That explained it! I gave Lori’s daddy Lesson 101 in Bottle Temperatures.

How to Know My Baby is Sick…Again!

And then I vividly remember another time I didn’t know, but was sure she was…

My baby girl would not stop crying! I had fed her, burped her, changed her, soothed her, rocked her, checked for diaper pins, sang to her, walked around with her…nothing helped.

I felt myself about to go into panic mode. Was she sick? How was I to know?

But, before I let anxiety take over and call the pediatrician, I tried giving her more bottle…thank goodness that worked!

Poor little Lori was telling me she was still hungry and I had a big dose of mommy guilt, guilt, guilt…

How to Know My Baby is Sick…This Time…When She Wasn’t Before?

But, then there was another time she was screaming…absolutely nothing helped. I did call the pediatrician…a visit to him revealed she had a severe ear infection…so stressful being a new parent!

My advice is to go with your gut instincts…try everything you can – unless of course, there is a fever or other blatant signs that your baby is sick.

How to Know My Baby is Sick?

Advice from an Expert

As new parents, we spend nine months emotionally as well as logistically preparing to welcome that magical newborn into our household. Nevertheless, we may not be prepared to evaluate our infant when he’s ill and to know when we can handle the illness yourself and when to get help.

For infants under the age of six months, Dr. Margaret Lewin, FACP – Medical Director, Cinergy Health (www.cinergyhealth.com) offers some of the following signs of illness and general guidelines for when to call the doctor:

  • Fever itself is not an illness, but rather the baby’s response to an illness – most commonly an infection.
    • Call the doctor if your infant is less than three months old and has a rectal temperature above 100.3F, or if between three and six months has a temperature above 101F.
    • Even if the temperature is lower than these general guidelines, call the doctor if the baby appears ill with such signs as a rash, irritability, poor feeding, trouble breathing, a stiff neck, persistent vomiting or diarrhea, signs of dehydration or is lethargic or difficult to arouse.
  • Dehydration can happen if the baby is feeding poorly, has a fever, is in too warm an environment, or has persistent vomiting or diarrhea.
    • You can recognize it if the baby has a dry mouth and gums, wets the diaper less frequently, sheds no tears when crying or the fontanel (the soft spot on the top of the head) appears to sink slightly.
    • If you think the baby is dehydrated, call the doctor.
  • Diarrhea is common in infants, but call the doctor if there is blood in the stool, the baby has more than 6 watery stools a day, is not taking fluids or shows signs of dehydration.
  • Vomiting (not just ‘spitting up’) may not be serious if it happens only once or twice. If it happens more frequently, contains blood or is green in color, or if the baby looks dehydrated, call the doctor.
  • Difficulty breathing can be suspected if the baby is breathing much more rapidly than usual, if the tissue between the ribs, above the collar bones, or in the upper abdomen is sucked in when the baby inhales, if the baby grunts while exhaling, if his head is bobbing or if his lips or skin develop a bluish tinge.
    • The doctor and 911 should be called immediately.
  • Red, oozing or bleeding navel (or umbilical remnant) or penis – call the doctor.
  • Rashes are common in babies, but call the doctor if the rash covers a large area, especially the face, or is accompanied by a fever, if it oozes, bleeds or the area is swollen, or if it looks infected.
  • Colds (upper respiratory infections or “URI”) are caused by a virus and are very common in infants. They usually last 1 or 2 weeks with an associated runny nose, fever and poor appetite for a few days, and a cough which can last as long as 2 to 3 weeks.
    • Do call the doctor if the temperature is higher than the guidelines above, if there is a rash, there’s any difficulty in breathing as described above, he is unusually fussy and cries a lot, the cough is severe and almost non-stop or brings up any blood, if he is vomiting, or if the symptoms last more than 2 weeks.

Finally, under all circumstances, if you’re very worried that the baby looks really ill, trust your instincts and call the doctor!