Babies can’t tell you what’s wrong. Hence, knowing how to identify signs of a serious problem in infants is crucial knowledge for every parent. The U.K. National Health Service advises that if you see any of these symptoms in a child below six months old, seek medical attention immediately. 1. Any fever in newborns Whether the fever is high or low, infants below 3 months old with a fever should be taken to a doctor immediately. “The very young have very minimal symptoms. The only sign of a serious infection may just be a fever,” says Dr. Carmina Arriola-Delos Reyes, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist. With this age range, all fevers should be evaluated by a doctor.
For older babies, a fever lasting more than five days, a temperature above 39.4 °C or a fever accompanied by red flags like changes in behavior, severe vomiting, or diarrhea (find more here) require medical attention. And, if your baby's fever is accompanied by seizures, take your child to the nearest medical facility immediately. “Fever and seizures can be a sign of meningitis in your child,” says Dr. Delos Reyes.
2. Rapid, irregular or strained breathing You'll notice that when your baby is breathing is hard and fast, he's using his chest muscles too much or his nostrils are flaring out. You may also hear a throaty noise coming from your child or he's sucking in his stomach to breathe. These are all signs of respiratory distress, Dr. Jadene Wong, a clinical instructor in pediatrics at Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford University, told WebMD. Call your child's pediatrician immediately or consider a trip to the emergency room, said Dr. Wong.
3. Green vomit Vomit that's green in color can mean that your child is vomiting bile, a fluid that's secreted by the liver. It can indicate that your child's intestines are blocked, and it requires immediate medical attention, according to BabyCenter. Vomit that resembles dark coffee grounds may be a sign of internal bleeding.
You should also take your baby to the emergency room if he:
has a swollen abdomen
vomits after a head injury
there's a substantial or increasing amount of blood in his vomit
4. Dehydration Severe dehydration is a life-threatening emergency, and it's dangerous in infants and young children. Signs of dehydration include dry mouth, sunken eyes, no tears when crying, excessive sleepiness or lethargy, and a sunken soft spot at the top of the skull, according to Mayo Clinic.
A diaper that's drier than usual is also a sign of a problem. “We like to see one diaper for every day old up to six days of age, and then six wet diapers a day going forward,” said Dr. Wong. It means at least two diapers for 2-day-old newborns, three diapers for 3-day-old newborns, etc. 5. Blue lips Parents may already know this, but it’s worth stating nonetheless. Skin or lips that look blue, purple or gray are signs that you need to seek emergency care for your baby. “Blue lips are a sign of cyanosis, which is caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood or a lack of blood circulation. Blue lips could occur when a child has heart disease, pneumonia, asthma or a list of rarer causes,” Dr. Danelle Fisher, chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center,said in SheKnows. It can be accompanied by breathing problems and an unresponsive baby. Call for help immediately.
According to Mayo Clinic, other signs that you need to seek emergency care for your baby include:
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bleeding that can't be stopped
unusual changes in behavior such as becoming withdrawn or less alert
large or deep cuts and burns
major mouth and facial injuries
“Learn basic first aid, including CPR (find instructional videos here), and keep emergency phone numbers and addresses handy,” says Mayo Clinic. You know your child best, so if anything is worrying you about your baby, call your child’s doctor.