Babies – when you should see the doctor

By: Osler Health International
Posted on: 1 Mar 2022

It’s inevitable that babies get colds and infections from time to time, but it can be difficult to tell if they are seriously ill because they can’t speak and tell you what’s wrong. This article will discuss the common conditions that may arise in babies and when you should bring your baby to the doctor.

1. Fever

A fever could be a sign of a severe infection in babies. How to deal with fever depends on your baby’s age. See a doctor immediately if your baby is: 

  • Under three months and running a fever of 38 degrees Celsius or higher 
  • Between three and six months and running a fever of 39 degrees Celsius or higher

The above applies to vaccinated babies only. If your baby is unvaccinated and running a fever, bring them to your family doctor immediately.

Apart from body temperature, you should also look out for the following signs in your baby that may indicate a medical emergency: 

  • The fever has gone on for more than five days 
  • Breathing difficulties 
  • Showing signs of dehydration – a dry or sticky mouth, few or no tears when crying, sunken eyes, a sunken soft spot on the top of the head, peeing less, irritability 
  • Non-stop crying that doesn’t sound like their usual cry 
  • Other signs of discomfort like paleness, refusing to feed, green vomit or disorientation

2. Diarrhoea and vomiting

Diarrhoea and vomiting are usually signs of a viral infection that typically clear in 24 hours or less. If the symptoms last longer or are accompanied by a fever, see a doctor immediately. These could be signs of a bacterial infection that needs to be treated. 

Watch out for other warning signs, including: 

  • Dehydration 
    • Few or no tears when crying 
    • Sunken eyes
    • Sunken soft spot on the top of the head
    • Irritability 
    • Peeing less than usual 
    • Dry, cracked lips and mouth 
    • Dark urine 
  • Red or black colour in the poop or vomit, which may indicate bleeding

3. Colds and other respiratory infections

Colds and other respiratory infections are usually viral with symptoms that last about 10 days. Your baby may also develop a fever that will last about three days, together with thick, greenish-yellow nasal discharge.

If the fever doesn’t go away after three days or symptoms get worse, your baby may have a bacterial infection. See a doctor immediately.

Here are other warning signs to look out for that require immediate medical attention: 

  • Difficulty in breathing 
  • Lips or nails turning blue

4. Rashes

There are many types of rashes that babies will encounter with different possible causes. Rashes that don’t bother your child are usually not a cause for concern. However, call your family doctor if the rashes don’t disappear after a few days or are accompanied by fever. You should also see a doctor immediately if your baby has the following symptoms:

  • Having trouble breathing 
  • Swelling of the face 
  • Blistery rashes
  • Rashes with discharge

5. Other warning signs that require medical attention

There are other signs that may indicate a medical emergency. Bring your baby to the doctor right away if you notice the following symptoms:

  • Trouble waking your child 
  • Sleeping more than usual 
  • Being unable to move 
  • Extreme or constant stomach pains 
  • Seizures 
  • Yellow skin or eyes
  • Non-stop crying 
  • Refuses to feed multiple times in a row 
  • Ear drainage 
  • Bleeding that cannot be stopped

Trust your instincts and speak to your family doctor if you notice anything unusual about your baby. Even if you’re unsure if you should be concerned, it’s best to ask your doctor just to be on the safe side. This way, you can clarify your doubts and make sure that there’s nothing to be worried about.

All of the Osler Health doctors are parents, so we know how worrying it can be when your baby is sick. Please reach out – we are here to help.

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