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How to survive baby’s first illness

Caring for your newborn can keep you on your toes, but nursing your baby back to health can be nerve-wrecking without the right baby care tips.

Taking baby temperature with thermometer

From buying the right thermometer to getting plenty of rest yourself, learn how to survive your baby’s first illness.

Buy the right thermometer

With all the fancy thermometers for babies available on the market, it can be confusing when it comes down to which one performs when you need it most. Skip ear and temple-reading gadgets and opt for a reliable digital version available at your pharmacy or in the baby care section of your favorite baby retailer. And, it’s important to note that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents discontinue the use of mercury thermometers, which could cause accidental mercury poisoning.

Know when to dial up the doctor

A fever in itself can be a red flag that your little one has a bug, but for a newborn it can be fatal if not tended to. “For infants younger than 3 months, contact the doctor for any [rectal temperature] greater than 100.4 F,” advises Phyllis A. Nsiah-Kumi, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine-pediatrics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. But even if your infant has a temperature lower than that, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t call your pediatrician for advice. “I always tell parents to trust their gut feelings and call their pediatrician for whatever [temperature] concerns them,” shares Dr. Heather Lubell, a pediatrician at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia.

Get tips on how to pick a pediatrician >>

Learn the doses

For infants who are old enough, giving your baby over-the-counter medicine like acetaminophen can still be daunting. So, instead of waiting until your sick baby needs something to minimize fevers and soothe aches and pains, get a dosing chart from your pediatrician during a well-baby visit to be prepared.

Get a cool mist humidifier

When your kiddo is fighting a runny or stuffy nose, one of the easiest ways to soothe your sick baby is to plug in a cool mist humidifier to keep humidity levels comfortable in your little one’s room. Avoid using a hot steam vaporizer to minimize burn risk and avoid thickening your baby’s already aggravating mucus.

Keep saline on hand

Your baby will feel better and breathe easier when you wash out the gunk that often accompanies sickness. Drip a few drops of saline solution into each nostril and use a nasal aspirator to clear out the salt water and the mucus.

Accept a helping hand

Whether it’s your mom offering to tend to your sick baby for an hour so you can shower or a good friend offering to drop off some takeout food, accept the help and focus on comforting your ailing baby.

Ever wonder: why do kids get sicker at night? >>

Get plenty of rest

Most importantly, get as much rest — as much as a mommy of a sick baby can — when your little one is ill. You’ll need your energy to tend to your baby, help your body fight off germs, and keep your patience and sanity.

Overall, being prepared is the key to learning how to survive Baby’s first illness, as well as knowing when to play Doctor Mom and when to go straight to the pediatrician. “If your baby is especially irritable, lethargic or uncomfortable, has a seizure, or is showing signs of dehydration, like not crying tears or fewer wet diapers, contact your pediatrician,” advises Dr. Nsiah-Kumi. “And, be sure to contact your baby’s doctor if the fever doesn’t respond to the medication, if a fever lasts longer than one day or for any fever over 103.”


When in doubt, call your healthcare provider’s 24-hour nurse line for sick baby care tips and advice; you won’t be the first parents to call in the middle of the night!

Read more on caring for a sick child

8 Signs your baby is sick
Sick child: Questions to ask your pediatrician
Overlooked needs of the sibling of the sick child

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