10 Tips on How to Know When Your Baby Is Sick

Sheri Reed
sick baby, ill infant, symptoms

Photo by laura7485

We always hope baby doesn't get sick, but it's nice to have some tips for understanding baby's symptoms when we're worried about illness.

Dr. Erika Schwartz, Medical Director of Cinergy Health, is here with us today and provides 10 tips on how to know when baby is sick.

10 Tips on How to Know When Your Baby Is Sick

by Dr. Erika Schwartz, Medical Director of Cinergy Health

First-time parents are nervous every time a new baby coughs, sniffles, or sneezes.  Below are some useful tips and advice for making sure you know when your baby is sick and when they’re just being fussy.  


  1. Fever. Infants should not have high fevers. In the first 6-12 weeks of life most infants carry mother’s immune antibodies that protect from common illnesses. If a newborn has a fever of more than 100.4 F rectally a doctor should be contacted. If a child has a fever over 100.6F for more than 24 hours, the younger the child the quicker a doctor should be contacted. Fever dehydrates children, so focus on keeping kids well hydrated.
  2. Cough. Infants should not have coughs. Sneezing is normal but coughing is not. Keep in mind infants don’t move so secretions will drip to the back of their throat, and they have to be removed by caregiver. Call a doctor if an infant has a cough. If an older child has a cough, put them in the bathroom and turn up the shower to get steam into the child. It will loosen secretions and help. If the cough is productive of green or brown phlegm and it 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 he/she isn’t feeling well. Check to make sure they don’t have a fever, belly pain, diarrhea, or constipation. Do not ignore mood changes.
  5. Colic. Infants suffer with belly aches and colic routinely. After they eat, their little bodies have to digest the food and sometimes the transit through the intestines is fraught with sometimes difficult pass-through. 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 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 easily dehydrated and dehydration is the most common cause of children requiring 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 cause the rash.
  9. Eye discharge. This is 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/her ear or an infant rolls his/her head to one side associated with crying and often fever, you are probably dealing with an ear infection, so do take the baby to the doctor.

About Dr. Erika Schwartz

Dr. Erika Schwartz

Dr. Erika Schwartz

Erika Schwartz, MD, Medical Director of Cinergy Health is a general internist, an authority on preventive health, and a patient advocate. She is a 25-year health industry veteran, working in an ER, as well as a private practice. She is based in New York and has appeared on Oprah and The View.

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