Unfortunately, newborn babies don’t come with a manual on how to care for and handle them. Your new bundle of joy can’t tell you what’s wrong, so mom and dad are left scrambling and wondering if every cry or symptom might be something to be concerned about.
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“There’s a lot of parenting advice out there,” says pediatric specialist Jason Sherman, DO. “But parents should never feel guilty about calling the doctor if something just doesn’t seem right with their baby or if they have concerns.”
How to know if your newborn is sick
During your baby’s first year, you’ll make many trips to the pediatrician’s office. Most of these visits are routine, but there may be times when your baby needs immediate medical attention. Before your baby is born, be sure to find out your doctor’s office hours, on-call hours and how to deal with an after hour emergency. This will make it easier to manage if an issue comes up.
Questions about minor problems such as a small cough, occasional diarrhea and fussiness can usually wait until normal office hours, but if your baby is acting unusual, don’t hesitate to call your doctor immediately. It’s very important to get medical advice from your doctor because something as simple as diarrhea can turn into a dangerous condition.
Before calling your doctor, make sure to have a pen and paper to write down any instructions he or she might give. When you call, have the following information on hand:
- Your baby’s immunization records.
- The names and doses of any medications—prescription and over-the-counter—your baby takes.
- Any medical problems your baby may have.
- His or her temperature.
Signs a newborn is sick
Call your doctor immediately if your baby has blood in his or her vomit or stool, has difficulty breathing, has a seizure or is limp.
If you notice any of the following symptoms with your baby, it’s best to call your doctor just to be sure:
- Refuses to feed for multiple feedings in a row.
- Has diarrhea and vomits more than usual.
- Has a cold that does not improve, or that gets worse.
- Has a rash.
- Has signs of dehydration (decreased number of wet diapers—should have 6 to 8 a day, does not shed tears when crying, has sunken eyes or the soft spot on the top of his or her head has sunken).
- Has ear drainage.
- Will not stop crying.
More serious reasons to call your doctor or take your baby to the doctor as soon as possible include:
- Has any type of poisoning.
- Has bleeding that you cannot stop.
- Is not able to move.
- Has a rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
- Has yellow skin or eyes.
- Sleeps more than usual or will not wake up.
If you have any questions or concerns about your newborn, do not hesitate to call your doctor. Parental instincts are usually right and it’s better to make sure everything is OK than assume it will be in time.