What To Do When Your Baby Gets Sick

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When a baby gets sick, it can be terrifying. A baby is so small and can’t tell you what hurts, so you must try and find the problem as well as the solution while trying to fight down your own panic that your little one is hurting and you are in charge of making it better. A sick baby is almost always serious. It may not be serious enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room, but it should always be taken seriously.

Assess the Situation

When you first start to get suspicious that your baby is sick, you should assess the full situation as quickly as possible. Undress her to look for rashes or spots. Take her temperature in two places (rectally and under the arm or with an ear thermumeter), check her soft spot on top of her head to see if it is sunken or looks normal. Don’t offer her any medicines until you speak with a professional if you haven’t dealt with infant illness before. Infants are not small adults. Symptoms of illness as well as treatment vary greatly from what you may be familiar with.

Make a List

Make a list of symptoms and observations. Here are questions to consider:

  • Is she vomiting?
  • Does she have diarrhea?
  • When was her last bowel movement? Was it normal?
  • How much as she eaten in the last few days?
  • Is she coughing?
  • Is it a dry or wet cough?
  • Does she have a fever?
  • What is her temperature? (Remember to take it in two places.)
  • Is she blue on her hands, feet or around her mouth?
  • Is her soft spot sunken?
  • Is her nose running?
  • What color is the discharge?
  • Is she teething?
  • How has she been sleeping?
  • Has she had any new foods?
  • Is she on any medicines?

Make a Call

Armed with your list of symptoms and observations, call your doctor’s nurse line. There is most likely not a need to disturb your doctor when a knowledgeable nurse can help walk you through the situation.

Act!

If your child has a high fever or symptoms such as a depressed soft spot or continuous vomiting, you may be told to take her the emergency room. Even if this feels like overkill, err on the side of caution. And if possible find someone to drive you so that you can sit in the backseat and comfort your child. Unless you are riding in a cab or public transportation, your baby should be restrained in her carseat.

For moderate symptoms, your nurse might make an appointment that day or the following to rule out ear infections or more serious conditions such as pneumonia or RSV (infant flu.)

Some symptoms might only indicate your child has allergies or is teething. Or she might simply have one of the many nameless colds or viruses that travel through day care centers and shopping malls.

If you are concerned that the situation is worse than it seems, or if your child continues to worsen rather than improve with rest and any recommended medicines, make an appointment with your pediatrician. A quality pediatrician sees as many healthy babies with panicked parents as she does legitimately sick ones. It is far better to put your mind at ease over a simple case of teething or hay fever than to underestimate a more serious condition because you are embarrassed you might be overreacting.

Parents, especially new parents, should call or see the doctor as often as they feel a trip is necessary. Over time their confidence and experience levels with grow, but when it comes to the health of your children. It is always best to overreact.

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