Checking your baby temperature
Knowing when to call the pediatrician can be a perplexing prospect for new parents.

Parenting brings along several challenges. Taking care of a newborn is not child's play. No child comes with an instruction manual. With so many self-proclaimed newborn "experts" out there, you may often be left perplexed. There are times when you can be entirely clueless about what is the right thing to do for your baby. It's perfectly normal to get worried about symptoms that may be harmless. It may, however, be risky at times to avoid seemingly harmless signs in your baby that may be due to serious health conditions. The best rule is when in doubt, contact your doctor. Unnecessary visits to the doctor, however, may be a bit heavy on your savings and can even expose your baby to infections during health care visits.

Symptoms and signs that your newborn may be sick

Although it may not be always possible to be sure if you have to call the doctor, some of the issues with your newborn that may need a doctor’s advice include the following:

  1. Your baby is not taking adequate feeds: One of the commonest signs of a sick baby is a refusal to feed. Babies have small stomachs that need to be fed at short intervals, generally every 2-3 hours. They have very little energy reserves, as well. If your baby is not taking enough feeds, it's time to contact your child's doctor.
  2. Baby's skin is too warm or too cold: Babies are prone to both hypothermia (low body temperature) and fever (high body temperature). If you feel that your baby is too cold or too warm, check his or her temperature. A temperature of 100.4 F or higher is considered a fever. Hypothermia (too low body temperature) is when the baby's body temperature is below 97.7 F. Contact your child's pediatrician in either of the cases.
  3. Your baby seems dehydrated: Signs of dehydration in a baby include lack of tears when the baby cries, sunken soft spot on the baby's head, reduced number of wet diapers (generally six to eight diapers are normally changed in a day), sunken eyes, and dry mouth. Dehydration can be dangerous for your baby and needs urgent medical attention.
  4. Altered bowel movements: Contact your child's pediatrician if your baby has any signs or symptoms of bowel changes, such as loose or watery stools, hard or scanty stools, or your baby struggles during bowel movements.
  5. Changed behavior: If your baby is too sleepy, lethargic, floppy, or cries inconsolably, you must contact your child's doctor.
  6. Skin rash: Contact your child's doctor if your baby has a rash anywhere on the body.
  7. Any signs of breathing difficulties: If your baby has a stuffy nose, rapid breathing, flaring nostrils, grunting, coughing, bluish skin color, or retraction of the ribs, contact your pediatrician immediately.
  8. Eye or ear discharge: If your baby has sticky discharge from one or both eyes or ear drainage, contact your pediatrician.
  9. Any appearance of blood: If you see blood in the baby's spit-up, nose discharge, poop, or navel, contact your doctor. Any pain in or bleeding from the penis also requires medical attention.
  10. Signs of jaundice: These include yellowing of the skin, eyes, or inside of the mouth. Call your doctor if your baby has jaundice.

Newborn Jaundice Symptoms & Signs

Newborn jaundice, also referred to as neonatal jaundice, refers to yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice) in a newborn infant. It is a very common condition in newborns and is not a disease itself.

A variety of other medical conditions can cause severe neonatal jaundice. Medical professionals must carefully monitor jaundice in a newborn because if bilirubin levels rise too high without treatment, that can lead to brain damage, known as kernicterus. Signs and symptoms sometimes associated with neonatal jaundice include

  • fussiness,
  • fever, and an
  • ill appearance.

When to seek emergency medical care for your baby

Besides the aforementioned reasons, do not hesitate from contacting your pediatrician if you believe that your child needs medical help. You must seek emergency medical attention in the following cases:

  • Poisoning
  • Near drowning
  • Electric shock
  • Increasing breathing distress
  • Bluish or greyish lips, face or nails
  • Unconscious or severely lethargic or limp baby
  • Burns or smoke inhalation
  • Abnormal body movements
  • Injuries, especially head injuries
  • Rectal temperature above 100.4 F (38 C) or below 97.7 F (36.5 C)


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Medically Reviewed on 6/9/2021
Johnson, Winter. "New Baby at Home? When to Call the Doctor." Oct. 16, 2014. Stanford Children's Health. <>.

"When to Call the Doctor for Your Newborn Baby." Nov. 25, 2020. Cleveland Clinic. <>.