The winter months can be scary for moms and dads since it's the season for cold and flu. When the baby is young, parents can constantly be terrified that the baby will get sick, since their immune systems are not fully developed. A common cold can lead to much more serious consequences.
Newborns are really fragile, and many parents fear going out in public at the risk that their baby will be exposed to germs. They will constantly watch out for symptoms and pester the doctor's office with calls about possible symptoms. They will worry over every runny nose and cough, even though there are times when those symptoms aren't a big deal at all.
Unfortunately, it can be hard to differentiate between a sickness that will pass in a few days and one that can lead to bigger things. There is a fine line between vomit and spit up; rashes that are signs of illness and those that are just minor irritation. First-time parents worry that they won't know the difference, so they usually jump at every little thing. Doctors say to pay attention to the baby's behavior, and moms should definitely trust their instincts, but to help parents going through the stress and worry of parenthood, we have a guide.
Here are 10 signs the baby might have a bug and 10 signs that are no big deal.
20 Sign: Lethargy
After the first few months of life, the thing about babies is that they have a lot of energy. Even when mom knows the baby is tired, she can tell the difference between when a baby is ready for a nap and just out of energy because of an illness.
Babies as young as a month old spend time playing when they are well. But when they can't muster the energy to even try to lift themselves during tummy time, that can be a sign that the baby is sick. There are definitely varying levels of lethargy, and moms should call the doctor if the baby's energy is down — and rush to the hospital if there is no waking him up.
19 Sign: Full Body Rash
A person's skin is an indicator of their health. That is true throughout a person's life, but for babies, rashes are fairly common and very indicative of what is going on. Many babies go through some minor redness at times, which might indicate a minor allergy, but if the baby gets a really bad rash, then it's definitely time to see the doctor.
Diseases like hand, foot and mouth disease are fairly common in babies, yet they can be pretty devastating. The baby could be contagious for a long time, and he'll be pretty miserable. Rashes are symptoms that something is wrong, and the baby needs medical attention.
18 Sign: Throwing Up
One of the grossest things that happens to moms is when they have to deal with a little one who has a stomach bug. While adults don't often vomit when they are sick, it's the first thing that happens to a little one. And it can be pretty forceful and disgusting and go just about everywhere.
There is a joke about moms catching throw up, but most of them do end up planning for that, since it's easier to clean their hands than the couch. Vomit is a surefire sign that the baby is sick. While it can look a lot like spit up, most moms know when something is different, and that is when they should go see the pediatrician, although some stomach ailments just have to run its course.
17 Sign: Refusing To Eat
Babies get hungry a lot. In the first few weeks of life, moms have to feed the baby every two hours, and while the time gets spaced out a little over time, the baby gets more emphatic in his desire to have his next meal. Moms can watch for nursing cues like clockwork, and if they wait too long, the baby will let them know it with a cry.
But when the baby is sick, sometimes he doesn't want to eat. Whether it's because of a belly ache or a sore throat, a bug can kill the baby's appetite, and he might refuse a few meals in a row. But babies need to eat a lot in order to gain weight and stay healthy — especially in those first few fragile months. So moms should call the doctor if the baby refuses to eat for several meal times.
16 Sign: Check The Fontanelle
The baby's soft spot is an amazing thing. It's there because the bones of the skull move to allow for easier passage through the birth canal. But after the birth, it is pretty useful as well. It can help parents figure out if the baby is dehydrated, and it can also be an indication if the baby has a bug.
Dehydration can be seen if the baby's soft spot is sunken. But if it is swelling, that indicates that the baby has an infection. Usually the baby has other symptoms such as a rash or lethargy by that point, so the parent should alert the pediatrician right away.
15 Sign: Wheezing
A lot of moms worry about the flu, but another major illness is going around that can be really dangerous for the baby. It's a respiratory ailment that can leave the little one struggling to catch their breath. Thousands of babies end up in the hospital each year with RSV, so parents should be on the alert.
A big symptom to look out for is wheezing. Babies can get croup, which has a barky cough, but wheezing, which indicates a blockage in the bronchioles, is when you can hear a whistling sound when the baby breaths out. Any strange sound or bad cough is a cause for concern with parents, but moms need to describe it to the doctor to make sure that the baby gets the right treatment.
14 Sign: Smelly Ears
Babies may not be able to tell their parents how they feel, but if moms pay attention to their senses, then they could get a clue. We're not talking about hearing their baby's cries, although that does happen. Instead, we are talking about the sense of smell.
One of the most common ailments that babies go through is an ear infection. Their tiny little Eustachian tubes can get infected, and the baby can be pretty miserable. Without treatment, the baby could end up with hearing loss, so parents should pay attention if the baby's ears smell. They might also see a discharge coming from the ear, and they baby might pull at them. He likely needs antibiotics, so it's time for a trip to the pediatrician.
13 Sign: Watery Stools
Changing diapers is a yucky job, but it's part of parenthood. But things take an even more gross turn when the baby gets a bug. Stomach flus and other gastrointestinal issues can result in stools that look almost like water, which makes then extra messy to clean up.
Most of the time, stomach issues start with vomiting before they end up making diaper changing extra disgusting. The good things is that moms would actually be grateful for the turn of events, since there is a diaper to contain the mess, at least as much as possible. The baby definitely has a bug, but it might be getting better at this point.
12 Sign: Pale Or Blue-Tinged Skin
As we've already mentioned, the skin can reveal a lot about a person's health. But it's not just about a rash; it's also important to pay attention to the coloring. Babies get a little red-faced if they have colic, and they might get a yellow tint if they are afflicted with jaundice when they are newborns. But when the baby is sick, a sign might be pale or even blue skin.
Respiratory issues can be a big problem for little ones, and the biggest concern is that the baby isn't getting enough oxygen. If the baby's lips turn blue, it's likely that his infection has become severe and he needs immediate medical attention.
11 Sign: Extreme Crankiness And Crying
All babies get cranky. It happens when they are ready for bed and when they are teething and so many other moments in life. But when things get extreme, that's a sign that the baby has a bug and he'll likely need to see the doctor.
All moms know when the baby is a little cranky and when his behavior has changed so much that it's cause for alarm. Even the most easy going babies can be pretty miserable and babies who have a harder time getting through the day can really struggle when they are sick. We're talking about fussiness so extreme that moms wouldn't want to deal with it every, so they should get the baby to the doctor quick to get her on the mend and back to her happy, healthy self again.
10 No Big Deal: Spit Up
Just because something gross comes out of the baby doesn't necessarily mean that she is sick. It can happen a lot with a newborn, since spit up is pretty much the name of the game the first year. Babies have immature digestive systems, and that means that at times their milk doesn't make it all the way down. For some, it's worse than others.
In fact, there are some newborns with reflux who can spit up what seems to be an entire bottle. They can leave themselves and their parents covered in a mess, so much so that they wonder if the little one has a bug. But the way to tell if it is spit up or vomit is that spit up isn't as forceful. It's still a good idea to see the doctor if the baby has severe reflux to make sure that she is getting the nutrients that she needs. And sometimes doctors have treatments that might help.
9 No Big Deal: A Low-Grade Fever (Unless The Baby Is Less Than 3 Months Old)
Many parents freak out when their little one has his first fever, but the truth is that a high temperature isn't always a cause for concern. Don't get us wrong — any sign of fever in the first three months can be dangerous, so moms should call the doctor right away. But after the baby is a little older, it's not necessarily a sign that the baby caught a bug.
Low-grade fevers can happen for babies who are teething, so moms don't need to panic if the baby's temperature is up a degree (again, as long as the baby is more than 3 months old). Even if the baby is a little sick, some doctors think that a low-grade fever is good for fighting the infection. Definitely call the doctor if the temperature is about 102 for older infants, and if the low-grade fever sticks around for several days, moms should call the doctor as well.
8 No Big Deal: Evening Crying
We mentioned earlier that crying can be a sign that something is wrong, but babies do cry at times for no reason at all. And sometimes it can be extreme — for no reason at all. If moms notice that the baby is inconsolable in the afternoon, it's probably not a bug. It's more likely colic.
Colic is diagnosed when the baby goes through unexplained crying fits pretty much every day. Often colic hits in the evening, just about the time when mom and dad get home from work and want to enjoy an evening with the baby. They might worry that the baby is unhappy and even think that they are to blame, but colic is no one's fault. Eventually the baby will grow out of colic, but it's not like a bug. It will take time, and medications won't help at all.
7 No Big Deal: Sneezing
Most parents think of a sneeze as the first sign of a cold. But sometimes, it's just a sneeze. Since parents know that babies are so fragile, we wanted to warn them that many times sneezing isn't a big deal at all.
People sneeze when their nose gets tickled by a particular of dust, and that is true for babies as well. And just like adults, sometimes they sneeze several times in a row, but that doesn't mean that they are getting sick. If the baby is sneezing and lethargic and has other symptoms, then mention it to the doctor as a symptom, but don't rush to the pediatrician at the first sneeze.
6 No Big Deal: Loose Stools (To A Point)
Diarrhea is usually a sign of a bug. But the thing we want to caution moms about is that baby poo can be deceptive, so moms don't need to panic when they change diapers unless they see really watery stools, and, as we mentioned earlier, the baby has probably already shown symptoms of sickness before those ever arrive.
Most of the time, breastfed babies produce some pretty shapeless waste in their diapers. If it were to come out of an adult, it might be cause for concern, but not for baby. And formula fed little ones isn't much different. Moms should actually be more considered if the baby's poo looked like an adults, especially before they start solids.
5 No Big Deal: Runny Nose (If Clear)
After months seeing things come out of nearly every hole in the baby, some moms might panic when they see yucky stuff dripping from the baby's nose too. But most of the time, a runny nose is no big deal.
The way to tell if the baby really has a bug is by looking at the color of the discharge. If it's clear or white, it's OK. But when the baby has an infection the snot will look more yellow. If it gets green, then the baby is really sick. Most of the time, a runny nose is just a reflection that babies don't know how to use a tissue and not a sign that they have a bug.
4 No Big Deal: Occasional Nursing Strike
A change in the baby's appetite could be construed as a sign that something is wrong. But moms should know that sometimes it's not that big of a deal. The first caveat is that in the first month or so, babies need to get their meals very regularly. If not, they could start to lose weight and fail to thrive. But after the six-month mark, there are times when the baby will occasional refuse to eat, and that can be OK.
The issue is called a nursing strike, since it usually happens more often to breastfed babies, although bottle-fed little ones might also skip a meal. It's usually because the baby is so interested in playing or gaining a new skill that he doesn't want to slow down to eat. If there are other symptoms that show the baby isn't eating because it hurts, then moms need to worry. But otherwise nursing strikes happen and it's no big deal.
3 No Big Deal: A Little Rash On The Head Or Chin
As we mentioned earlier, rashes can be a sign that the baby is sick. But there are some babies who get a rash that is no big deal. For example, a majority of babies end up with dry skin on the scalp that can result in cradle cap, a kind of skin ailment that can be unsightly but isn't painful or a sign of sickness.
Babies can also get minor rashes on their chin from their droop, especially when they are teething. It's not a big deal, and it usually goes away if the mom pays attention to wipe up the drool every once in a while. Sometimes a rash is just an irritation and not a major issue.
2 No Big Deal: Taking An Extra Nap At Times
Being a baby can be exhausting. Little ones need several naps per day just to get through, although it doesn't take long for the baby to settle into a routine. Most can start to predict what time the baby wants to eat and when it's time for a nap. Some days, though, the baby might take an extra nap, and sometimes it's not a big deal.
Lethargy is a big deal — it can be one of the biggest signals that the baby has a bug — but just because the baby needs an extra nap doesn't mean that he is experiencing lethargy. That's more than tired. It means that the baby wants to sleep all the time. He doesn't have the energy to do much of anything at all. An extra nap might mean that the baby played too hard, which is no big deal at all.
1 No Big Deal: Playing Sick
Some moms might be surprised to learn that babies can actually play being sick. It's not that he wants to get out of daycare — it's just play. The most common way that it happens is by making noise, as little ones learn what noises that they make that can get mom's attention.
Yes, that is right; babies learn to do fake coughs. Their mom turns to check on them and they get a laugh. It's kind of cute, actually, but that means that moms have to use their judgment to know whether the baby has a bug or not. Mother's intuition goes a long way in determining the difference between lethargy and tiredness or spit up and vomit. Moms need to trust their instincts — most of the time, they are correct.