Baby Health and Safety Article

How to Tell if Your Baby is Not Well

Babies give signals when they aren't feeling well. The most obvious of these are a fever, runny nose, cough or rash. There are also less obvious signals: he seems lethargic or very cranky, not interested in anything or anyone around him, has little or no appetite, is spitting up more than usual, or his stools are either very hard or runny.

The intensity and duration of such symptoms are also factors that will help you, a nurse or a doctor determine how to treat them.

Fevers and Colds

Fever is how a baby responds to an infection. If his temperature is over 101 degrees, he has a fever. If he's less than two months old and his temperature is higher than 100 degrees, call your pediatrician. Make sure to also call if the fever has lasted longer than a few days, or if there is a rash along with the fever.

Sniffles and respiratory congestion can make your baby miserable. Make sure his airway is clear and that she is not having difficulty breathing. Call the doctor if your baby's cough comes from deep inside his chest, if her breathing is labored, or if she is wheezing.

The Dreaded Nose Bulb
A baby cannot blow his nose, so you will need to do it for him using a nose bulb (looks like a small turkey baster that sucks the mucus out). He will hate having it stuck up his nose and will thrash around, making this a very difficult maneuver.

To get the job done, wrap your arm around his head (i.e., put him in a gentle but firm headlock) with you hand on his chest to immobilize him. Squeeze the air out of the bulb with your other hand, then place the bulb gently but snuggly in his nostril, and let the bulb expand. Repeat with the other nostril.

Most babies get their first teeth between 4 and 6 months. As the teeth grow, they push through the baby's gums, which can be very painful. Drooling is the first sign of teething and there may be a slight fever. Most babies will let you know loudly that they are uncomfortable. Give him a teething ring that has been cooled in the refrigerator to chew on. Your knuckle will also work. Rubbing OragelTM(a topical pain reliever) on his gums is the standard treatment; keep some in the diaper bag and handy at home.

Falls and Bumps on the Head
No matter how careful you are, babies will take spills, and the older they are, the more likely they will be to fall and hurt themselves. If he tumbles off a couch, falls out of his high chair or slips out of your arms after a bath, you should do a thorough check for injuries and watch him closely for awhile afterwards.

If he cries after he falls, it is a good sign that he's not seriously injured. If he has fallen on his head or back, be even more careful in your observations. Watch him carefully for 24 hours and take him to the doctor or emergency room if he:

  • Seems weak or confused.
  • Is having trouble moving any part of his body or there seems to be a deformity with his arms or legs.
  • Has blood in the whites of his eyes or pink fluid coming out of his nose or ears.
  • Shows signs of a concussion, such as crossed eyes, pupils that are unequal in size, or vomiting.
  • Cries loudly when you move any part of his body.
  • Is sleeping more than normal.

When to Take Your Baby to the Emergency Room
Common emergencies can be confusing and the signs of injury can be subtle. Also, pediatricians can be difficult to reach after-hours. Get to know where your local emergency room is located. Injuries to your baby that indicate a trip to the ER include:

  • A cut that may require stitches.
  • Vomiting for several hours or vomiting forcefully.
  • Unresponsive to attempts at waking, especially if he has a high fever or if he's had a fall.

When to Call 911
There are obvious emergencies that require a call to 911 immediately, and some not so obvious:

  • Severe burns, serious bleeding, or unconsciousness.
  • Seizures or other uncontrollable or unusual body movements.
  • Difficulty breathing, or taking more than 60 breaths a minute.
  • Swallowed a poisonous substance, or a foreign object and is choking.

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