A toddler or infant getting sick often worries parents, especially first-time parents. All sorts of thoughts might concern parents who are not aware of the signs of an unwell child. These are the signs and symptoms of a sick child. If you see them, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Babies shouldn’t get a fever in the first three months of life. If the infant has a rectal temperature of 100.4 F or higher, visit the doctor or ER. Fever in newborns could be a sign of a serious bacterial infection.
If a toddler has diarrhea or vomits, seek immediate medical attention. Infants can get dehydrated within 12 hours of severe diarrhea. Always check for a dry diaper, which will indicate dehydration. Besides that, check for blood or bile in the vomit or stools\.
If the baby inhales and exhales rapidly, has noisy breathing and a spot in the middle of the chest sinks in, then seek immediate medical attention. Also, if the child coughs continuously, it could indicate asthma or that the child has inhaled an object.
Newborns often get mild jaundice that goes away in a few days. During the initial days of life, the liver doesn’t always function up to its full potential, so it can’t break down a substance in the blood called bilirubin. If jaundice persists for more than two weeks, consult the doctor immediately.
If the baby has tiny red dots on their chest, back, arms or legs that don’t fade when pressed, go to the doctor. Such a rash may indicate a severe infection, such as meningitis or blood vessel disease.
How to identify if the baby is healthy or sick
The table summarizes important signs that a parent should look out for in a child to determine if their child is sick.
Table. List of signs commonly used to distinguish a healthy or sick child
|Reassuring signs||Worrisome signs||Signs indicating serious illness|
|Appearance||Appears bright-eyed and alert.||Appears sleepy with dull eyes and little expression on their face.||
Stares “blankly” and has a “glassy-eyed” look.
|Cry||Cries in an usual way at usual things.||
The cry sounds whiny.
The child is difficult to comfort and whimpers off and on.
The child’s cry sounds weak.
The child continues to cry or moan even while being comforted.
|Activity level||The child plays and sleeps normally.||The child is fussy when awake and sleeps more than usual.||The child is hard to awaken and has little or no interest in playing.|
|Appetite||The child asks for favorite foods and liquids. Also, eats and drinks the requested foods and liquids.||The child takes liquids or food if offered, but only takes a few sips of liquid or a few bites of food.||The child pushes away or refuses all food and liquids.|
|Urination||The child’s urine is light yellow with the usual frequency.||The child voids dark yellow urine less frequently than usual.||The child has little saliva (spit) or less tears than usual when they cry and very little urine.|
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Riley Children's Health: "Sick Child Basics." https://www.rileychildrens.org/health-info/sick-child-basics
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Cold and Cough Medicine for Infants and Children
The safety of giving infants and children over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medicine is important for caregivers to understand. While there is no "gold standard" recommendation for giving infants and children OTC cold and cough medicine for fever, aches, cough, and runny nose, a few standards have been recommended.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that OTC cold and cough medicine only be used in children age four years and older.
The American College of Chest Physicians recommend that these medicines only be used in children age 15 years and older.
The FDA recommends that OTC cold and cough medicine be used in children 2 years of age and older.
However, there is agreement in regard to which OTC medications should not be used in children under the age of four (or the age of two, depending upon which guidelines are used), and they are 1) certain antihistamines like brompheniramine, chlorpheniramine maleate, and diphenhydramine (Benadryl); 2) cough expectorants (guaifenesin); 3) cough suppressants (dextromethorphan, DM); and 4) decongestants (pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine).
Aspirin should never be given to infants, children, and adolescents due to the possibility of a rare, but often severe and even fatal illness called Reye's syndrome.
FDA. "Most Young Children with a Cough or Cold Don't Need Medicines." July 18, 2017.
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