How to Handle 5 Common Conditions in Infants
Why is he crying? Why isn’t he crying? Is that a rash? What to do and when to worry.
It’s normal for parents to question everything and worry incessantly — it’s practically part of the job description. And that’s when baby is perfectly healthy. Never mind when a health issue arises. But from colic to cradle cap to ear infections, there are some things that just come with being a baby. Don't worry. We've got your plan of action right here.
Everyone knows babies cry. A lot. But if your baby cries for more than three hours per day, three or more days per week, it might be colic.
Colic is the term used for otherwise healthy babies who cry inconsolably. There’s no single cause, however, experts believe the following can contribute to colic: pain from gas or indigestion, hunger, feeling full, sensitivity to milk or formula and overstimulation. In other cases, it simply means your baby isn’t able to self-console yet.
What to do: Talk to your doctor about colic. He or she will want to rule out other issues first. If it is colic, it typically resolves on its own by four months. In the meantime, try:
- Avoiding potentially irritating foods such as milk products, caffeine, onions and cabbage if you are breastfeeding.
- Switching formula brands.
- Being careful not to overfeed.
- Laying baby face down across your knees and rubbing the back.
When to worry: Call your doctor if inconsolable crying comes on suddenly or is paired with fever, vomiting, bloody stools or decreased movement.
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Cradle cap is a common rash marked by redness and scaling on your little one’s scalp that typically develops in the first weeks of life. It can also appear in other areas, including the neck, armpits, behind the ears and diaper areas.
What to do: Most cradle cap goes away gradually after several weeks. Shampoo as usual, if not a little more often. Some parents have found petroleum jelly to be helpful.
When to worry: Cradle cap that migrates to other areas of the body is called seborrheic dermatitis. Most of the time, it too is harmless. However, seborrheic dermatitis that appears in creases in your baby’s skin can lead to yeast infections. Call the doctor if affected areas become very red or irritated.
More common in children than adults, ear infections are one of the top reasons for pediatrician visits. The No. 1 symptom is ear pain, but since your baby can’t tell you when it hurts, look for:
- Pulling at the ear
- Crying and fussiness
- Trouble sleeping
- Fluid drainage
- Difficulty hearing
What to do: Doctors cannot diagnose ear infections over the phone, so if you suspect one, make an appointment. A round of antibiotics usually does the trick.
When to worry: If your baby gets recurrent ear infections and antibiotics stop being effective, your doctor may recommend surgery to place tubes in the ears to increase ventilation.
Fevers in infants are defined as anything over 100.4 degrees (rectal) or 99 degrees (oral). They’re not all bad. In fact, a fever is a positive sign your baby’s immune system is fighting off an infection.
What to do: Mild fevers needn’t be treated after your little one is three months old. Call the doctor if your baby’s temperature rises above:
- Younger than 6 months: 100.4
- 6 months and older: 103, or if a fever of 102 doesn’t resolve after two days
When to worry: If fever is greater than 105 or greater than 103 and does not come down at all with antipyretics, then you may need urgent evaluation. Rarely fevers can cause seizures (febrile convulsions) in children up to five years.
Most happen within the first three hours of becoming sick and last less than a minute. If your baby has difficultly breathing during a febrile convulsion or the seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes, call 911. See what signs warrant a visit the ER.
Does your baby’s skin or eyes have a yellowish hue? That’s called jaundice, and it’s caused by a buildup of bilirubin, a compound that mom’s liver filtered for baby during pregnancy. It’s quite common — about 60 percent of newborns develop jaundice, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is something we screen all babies for in the newborn nursery.
What to do: Mild jaundice typically resolves on its own, but increasing your baby’s milk supply, if low, might help. Light therapy in the hospital is an effective treatment if it doesn’t not resolve on its own.
When to worry: Severe jaundice requires urgent medical intervention. Call your doctor if your baby has very yellow or orange skin, is difficult to wake or won’t sleep, is not eating, does not produce enough wet or dirty diapers and is very fussy.