All babies and young children get sick at one time or another. Unless you live in isolation, it is pretty difficult to avoid sick people and germs are passed from one person to another with enormous regularity, especially during the winter months. But although the illness is common and most babies recover without any medical intervention, there are some instances where it is very important that you seek medical help urgently.
Coughs and colds are common in babies under 12 months old. A baby will catch colds and other viral infections very easily when he is young because his immune system is underdeveloped and his body can’t fight the infection. Simple things such as a humidifier or a snot sucker can ease the symptoms of a cold and help your baby on the road to recovery within a few days. Unfortunately, however, because of the prevalence of common illnesses such as colds and ear infections, it can be difficult for parents to spot when their child is seriously ill. So if you are a new parent and you are not sure what symptoms to be looking out for, here are a few signs your baby needs urgent medical attention.
A High Temperature
A temperature of more than 100.4F in a baby of fewer than three months old is something to be concerned about. Feverish babies have hot, clammy skin; so if your baby is giving out more heat than a bonfire and his clothes are damp, check his temperature with a digital thermometer. You should also be very concerned if he has a high temperature and appears unresponsive and listless, or if he is hot but his hands and feet are cold.
A Red-Purple Rash
Rashes are very common in babies and are usually the result of a mild reaction to an irritant in his immediate environment or something you or he ate. In this instance, a rash is nothing to worry about as it will clear up quickly, but if your baby develops a red-purple rash on his body and it doesn’t disappear when you press a glass to it, call the doctor immediately as this is one of the symptoms of meningitis. Other symptoms include a high fever and a high-pitched cry.
Can’t Drink, Won’t Drink
Babies can become dehydrated very quickly, so if your baby doesn’t want to drink, or can’t drink because he has a bad cold, call the doctor immediately. Always encourage your baby to drink plenty of milk when he’s poorly. Nursing from the breast or a bottle will soothe your baby if he is feeling rotten. Older babies can be given water or diluted juice, but younger babies need milk – breast milk or formula. It is easy to see how much a baby is drinking if he is formula fed, but less so if he is breastfed, so check his diapers and if they are drier than normal, he isn’t drinking enough.
Other ‘Red Flag’ symptoms for a seriously ill baby include:
- Bulging fontanelle (soft spot on a baby’s head)
- Seizures and convulsions
- A lack of responsiveness
- An unusually drowsy baby
- Breathing difficulties
If in doubt, always call a doctor or ring for an ambulance.