You are a new parent. Baby has his first bad cold/flu virus with a temperature. Understandably, as a Mom, you feel scared. What do you do? Is it a good idea to visit the pediatrician, or is this something you can handle at home with over the counter medicine?
As parenting becomes second-nature, it is easier to decipher when there is a real emergency, and when baby and Mom are better off resting and healing at home. This gets easier with time. However, there are moments when Mom has to trust her gut that something more than a regular virus is happening and take charge.
At these times all the great advice from family, friends and baby books may not fit the child you see in front of you. How can a parent tell (especially if they are new parents), that what they are seeing is not just a standard virus, cold or flu? How can a parent trust that they are not overreacting? Other than one’s parenting instinct and knowledge of the baby we have, there are some important symptoms it is important to never ignore. Here they are:
15 High Fever That Does Not Go Down
Yes, fevers in little ones will spike up and down. Often, hospitals don’t even want to see you and baby unless fever has been high for three days. However, if the fever is not breaking even under pain relief medication, it is time to call your pediatrician and express concern.
If the pediatrician is not available, trying a walk-in-clinic, or even the hospital to rule out anything more serious is a good option. Better safe than sorry. Just make sure you and baby don’t touch too many surfaces, and wash hands frequently to prevent more germs to compromise an already weakened immune system.
A lot of times baby may just need stronger pain medication or even antibiotics for a tough virus. But if it’s something more sinister, you are in the right place to get medical attention ASAP. Baby will fare better and you will know what steps to take in the future.
14 Loss of Appetite and Desire For Liquids
This is very important. Although some loss of appetite is normal when baby is sick, if the desire to eat or drink is not coming back at all, this is a red flag. Yes, some babies are really big eaters and some are grazers or eat in small bits throughout the day. The key is to make sure that baby is following their usual eating pattern, whatever that is.
A little bit of veering off in another directions is not cause for concern. It’s a concern if a baby who is NOT normally a picky eater suddenly started refusing food, milk or any liquids. This can signal anything from a mild virus to something more serious.
It’s always better to go and get it checked out by your pediatrician. It’s also important that baby stays well hydrated, so make sure they are getting enough liquids. Refusal of ANY liquid is dangerous and they need to be seen by their doctor.
13 Difficulty Breathing
Immediately call 911 and take baby to the hospital emergency room. This could be a variety of problems, from a bad infection that needs antibiotics, to a more serious medical condition that has gone undetected, to allergens in food, or allergies or an allergic reaction to something in the environment.
Regardless, the sooner the child is evaluated, the sooner he/she can get the help they need to get better. Mom and Dad will also have better tools to handle a possible future re-occurrence if it allergy related or for anything else for that matter. The scariest thing is watching your child suffer and not knowing what the cause could be.
In this case, the sooner they are seen the better. Ambulance attendants and any medical personnel will take breathing difficulties very seriously and will put the child through the system as quickly as possible to figure out what the problem is.
12 Constant Crying
Yes, this could be colic which is very hard on baby and their caretakers, but often times constant crying is a sign that baby is not physically well. Getting them into see their doctor or to a clinic or hospital as will help everyone concerned determine what the problem could be. Now constant crying is pretty much all day and night.
All babies cry when they are hungry, tired, need to be changed, and some are more temperamental than others. What distinguishes this type of crying from constant one, is that when baby’s needs are met, they quiet down. If this is not happening with your child, something else is probably happening.
Also, (and every parent learns to eventually read the cries) this has to differ from baby’s hunger, tired and change me cries which all have their own unique sound and that most babies use.
11 Pale Complexion and Lethargy
If baby is very pale and lethargic, and there is no fever or other signs of a cold or virus (runny nose, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.) monitor the child very closely. Take their temperature, make sure they are getting enough liquids as well.
If you see they are sleeping longer and still have no strength or stamina, especially if appetite is poor as well, bring them into the hospital to see what the problem could be. If baby appears to be disoriented or dizzy, call 911 right away. It could be a complex physical issue or virus that could be very serious.
Regardless, you want to have medical personnel on hand to help you and your child should you need it. And remember Mom, this is hard, try and stay as calm as possible. Baby picks up on your emotions too.
9 Loss of Skills or Confusion
If baby stops eating properly, turning over, crawling, walking (depending where they are in their milestones), immediately alert your pediatrician and have them examine baby. Sometimes babies are coming down with a virus so appear to forget how to do things as they are feeling weak.
But if you see over a course of a few days no symptoms of a virus or illness, and baby not remembering how to do things developmentally appropriate, have them evaluated for anything more serious. This may require a little more pushing on the parents’ part as many pediatricians like to take the wait and see approach especially if baby appears physically healthy.
Should the child seem confused, lost and you are concerned, please speak frankly to your doctor about your worries and fears in order to rule out something more serious. Many doctors will reconsider and evaluate.
8 Baby Not Hearing You
This is also a scary one, and could be anything from an ear infection, to another type of physical infection, to a global developmental delay or a neurological and developmental issue like autism spectrum disorder. It is important to monitor if the child is sometimes hearing you, and appears to sometimes be not hearing you, or if this is something consistent.
It is also important to see if the child’s sleeping and eating patterns have changed as well as their patterns of play. This could affect something like hearing being off. But a red flag is if all of these things are in place, and still you notice loss of hearing.
As usual, your mother’s gut will serve you and it’s always better to check in with your pediatrician if you are not sure. They will usually order a hearing test, and depending if the results are positive or negative, more tests with a developmental team to assess your child. Remember, the sooner you get to the bottom of baby’s issue the sooner you can start implementing a solution.
7 Unexplained Rash, Bruises or Cuts
Usually when baby develops a rash, cuts, bruises, anything physically evident, it is due to an immediate mild or moderate injury, an allergic reaction to food, creams or detergents.
If you do a quick inventory and see that nothing has changed in baby’s eating, sleeping and bathing routine, and there have been no injuries recent or in the past that you can remember, have this looked at immediately. It could signal a serious medical issue, an untreated infection, and is definitely not something that normally occurs.
Don’t be afraid of being labeled an overreacting parent. It’s always better to be on the safe side. Sometimes it is just something innocent that you may have overlooked, but as a parent you always want to be sure baby is as comfortable and healthy as he/she can be.
6 Unusual Bowel Movements or Urine Samples
Ah yes, we are all embarrassed or a little grossed out to talk about urine and bowel movements, never mind look at them sometimes. Yet at the same time, it has become second nature for parents to talk about baby’s issues in this area.
You will have a lot of questions at the beginning of parenthood about what is normal in both these respects. Always ask your doctor, read recommended baby books or great online sites that have illustrations of what is normal and what is not, as well as talking to Mom and Dad friends who have experience in this area.
As a rule, very dark urine usually could signal dehydration, blood in stool means some type of infection, and a darker stool (unless it is in a newborn and called meconium) can mean there is an issue. If you have any doubts in this important area, check in with your baby’s pediatrician.
5 Baby Not Able To Point or Wave
Again, every baby develops at their own pace. Some are a little ahead in milestones, some a little behind. The thing to look for is if they are developing different skills steadily.
Not being able to point or wave the one year mark could signal a developmental delay. This needs to be investigated further by a professional. If you see there is a gap in what they can do and not do as well, for example, if they seem very advanced verbally, but cannot make eye contact consistently, take them in to see the family doctor and get a referral for a neurological or developmental assessment.
4 Any Type of Seizures or Strange Tics
Parents will of course bring the baby into the hospital immediately following the incident, but make sure to stress even if this was an isolated incident, that baby needs a full evaluation to determine what caused the seizure.
If baby was given a certain medication prior, it is even more important to note the reaction to it, and have it in their file. It is rare that baby has just one seizure and it never happens again. Therefore, this is something that needs to be addressed immediately. Parents will also have to learn what to watch for, and most likely chart for doctors, behaviors, and different things that happened before a seizure occurred.
It is scary to be sure, but once parents have some knowledge about causes, some control can be put back into their hands to help their child with medication and/or lifestyle changes.
3 Loss Of Consciousness or Head Injury After a Fall
After seeking medical attention for the incident, a lot of parents feel they should not worry. However, remember, even with a brief loss of consciousness and mild head injury, it is important to constantly monitor the child’s progress, and to rule out concussions or other damage that may have been done.
Children could appear to have moments of confusion or complain or pain or dizziness. Even a mild concussion may cause more damage than we think, so parents need to be aware of watching baby very closely over the course of the next few days after a fall or hit to the head for whatever reason. Stay calm. Chances are baby will be fine.
2 Loss of Language
This also can be put under the physical developmental milestones issue, but sometimes loss of language can be due to a whole slew of problems, some minor, while others are more complex.
It is important that parents monitor how their child is communicating with them. If they are babbling less, not gesturing as much, or seem distraught and experience more frustration than previously, ask your doctor for a referral to have their hearing and speech evaluated. If the problem seems more complex, you will be referred to a team who will evaluate your child.
Also, parents will be given tips how to stimulate language development. In either case, your child wins as do you by seeking help early.
1 Spinning or Repetitive Behaviors
Both of the above are usually tied in with an ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) diagnosis, if along with them, the baby is not making eye contact or socializing appropriately with those around them. This is tricky when evaluating very young children, as many repeat things and spin.
However, again trust your parenting gut. If you notice when they are with other babies that they seem different, that they engage differently as well as do repetitive behaviors and spinning, please have your baby evaluated by a developmental team to get them the early intervention they may need and for you as a parent to help support them in the best way you can.
You will have to get used to doing things a little differently, but your child will thrive with the right interventions.
These are just some basic things to look out for. As baby’s Mom or Dad, you know them better than anyone. Don’t be afraid to stay on the side of caution, and ask your doctor questions about any health matters that seem strange or out of place. Again, your parent’s gut will be able to guide you if you listen to it. Good luck.
Sources: Baby Center Canada