1. Fever. Infants should not have high fevers. In the first 6–12 weeks of life, most infants carry their mothers’ immune antibodies that protect from common illnesses. If a newborn has a fever over 100.4° F rectally, a doctor should be contacted. If a child has a fever above 100.6° F for more than 24 hours, the younger the child is the quicker a doctor should be contacted. Fever dehydrates children, so focus on keeping kids well-hydrated.
2. Cough. Infants should not be coughing. Sneezing is normal, but coughing is not. Keep in mind the fact that infants don’t move, so secretions will drip to the back of their throat and have to be removed by the caregiver. Call a doctor if an infant has a cough. If an older child has a cough, put him or her in the bathroom and turn up the shower to get steam into the child, which will loosen secretions. If the cough is productive of green or brown phlegm and sounds like a bark, call a doctor.
3. Change in appetite. Infants and young kids should be hungry and eat well at feeding time. If the baby or young child doesn’t eat, skips meals, or sucks poorly, call a doctor.
4. Cranky. Babies and young children are usually in a great mood. They coo and giggle. If you see a change in your baby’s mood, it’s usually a sign that he or she isn’t feeling well. Check to make sure your baby doesn’t have a fever, belly pain, diarrhea, or constipation. Do not ignore mood changes.
5. Colic. Infants routinely suffer from bellyaches and colic. After they eat, their little bodies have to digest the food, and sometimes the transit through the intestines is difficult. If the baby is inconsolable, you may want to consult a physician and discuss the formula or your diet if you are breastfeeding.
6. Vomiting. While it isn’t unusual for infants to spit up food after they finish a meal, it is unusual for them to vomit. Projectile vomiting—vomiting that shoots out across the room—is associated with digestive problems and congenital narrowing of the digestive tract. If the child projectile vomits or just starts vomiting, call a doctor. Infants get dehydrated easily, and dehydration is the most common cause of children’s needing hospitalization.
7. Colds. Colds are uncommon in newborns. Sneezing is okay, but if the baby starts having a cold that interferes with breathing by creating nasal congestion, call a doctor.
8. Rash. Rashes are unusual in newborns, so any rash that covers more than the diaper area should be looked at by a physician. Often formula allergies may be causing the rash.
9. Eye discharge. A rare occurrence but certainly something to keep in mind. If the baby has a discharge coming out of one or both eyes, you should consult a doctor.
10. Ear problems. If a baby tugs on his or her ear, or an infant rolls his or her head to one side (actions that are associated with crying and often fever), you are probably dealing with an ear infection, so you should take the baby to the doctor