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Don't Ignore These 8 Signs That Your Baby Might Be Sick

Margaret Lewin, MD, Medical Director of Cinergy Health ( is a general internist and leading women's health and prevention expert. Dr. Lewin is a 25 year health industry veteran, a Fellow of the American College of P...

If your baby is experiencing these symptoms, it's time to call the doctor

5. Difficulty breathing

If your baby is having trouble breathing, you need to call the doctor and 911 immediately.

Signs of difficulty breathing include:

  • Your baby is breathing much more rapidly than usual.
  • The tissue between the ribs, above the collar bones, or in the upper abdomen is sucked in when your infant inhales.
  • Your baby grunts while exhaling.
  • Your infant's head is bobbing.
  • Your baby's lips or skin develop a bluish tinge.

Children's lips are typically pink, so if a baby has blue lips, it's important to evaluate their breathing, says Dr. Danelle Fisher, MD, FAAP, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. If a baby with blue lips is coughing, has a fever or has had seizure activity, it's time to contact the doctor. A happy, playful baby who just ate something bluish or purplish in color, on the other hand, may have blue lips for a totally innocuous reason.

6. Redness, oozing or bleeding

If your baby's navel (or umbilical remnant) or penis turns red, is oozing or bleeding, call the doctor immediately. These are signs of an infection.

More: What You Need to Know About Postpartum OCD

7. Rashes

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, oozing, bleeding or swelling, or if the rash looks infected.

8. Colds

Upper respiratory infections (URIs) are caused by a virus and are very common in infants. They usually last one or two weeks with an associated runny nose, fever and poor appetite for a few days, and a cough which can last as long as two to three weeks. More serious symptoms require doctor's care.

Call your doctor if:

  • Your baby's temperature is higher than 100.4 F for infants under three months or higher than 101 F for infants between 3 and 6 months. (The Mayo Clinic extends this window up to 102 F for babies from 3 to 6 months.)
  • Your baby has a rash or difficulty breathing as described above.
  • Your infant is unusually fussy and cries a lot.
  • Your baby's cough is severe and almost nonstop or brings up any blood.
  • Your infant is vomiting.
  • Your baby's symptoms last more than two weeks.

Finally, under all circumstances, if you're very worried that your baby looks really ill, trust your instincts and call the doctor. With or without any of the symptoms above, your gut will tell you if something isn't quite right — especially if your baby's energy levels are lower than normal. “It is important to remember that even though thought babies do not talk, they do 'talk' to us in different ways. One important way in which they 'talk' to us is in their overall energy level," Dr. Robert Hamilton, pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, says.

Children who are sick don’t act like their normal selves. "Mothers know, what I refer to as the 'plumb line of normalcy' in their child. They know everything about them; how much they eat, how long they sleep, their basic patterns of stopping and sleeping. When children are not well, these patterns change, maybe subtly, but they do," Dr. Hamilton says. According to Dr. Hamilton, the scariest phone call that he could receive from a mother goes like this: "'Doctor, I am not really sure what is happening with my daughter, but she is different. I can’t explain it, but over the past 24 hours, she has changed.' This kind of phone call immediately gets my attention, and I will see that child immediately.”

If your baby is experiencing these symptoms, it's time to call the doctor

Image: J.P. Tanner/SheKnows

This post was written by Margaret Lewin, MD, FACP.
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