When it comes to a child's health, every parent wants to ensure they are doing the right thing. As adults, we are able to communicate and have developed cognitive functions by this point in our lives. Babies however, are a lot different. You need to be able to look at their symptoms a little more closely. Kids and babies could exaggerate, undermine or not even bring up symptoms if they are feeling unwell.
It's always a good idea to be able to distinguish when your baby just has the common cold or flu, and when it is time to call 911. Keep in mind, in emergencies it is always best to call 911 so that the paramedics can immediately start treatments.
I am a part-time swim school supervisor and have earned many safety qualifications as a requirement for my job. Since I oversee a minimum of 300 kids and staff a day, I have been conditioned to prevent accidents and help anyone who may be hurt. Even in my everyday life I find myself stopping when someone is hurt to offer assistance. Regardless of my qualifications, I know some things are left best to the professionals.
The knowledge I have gained has allowed me to be better equipped to decide when something is an emergency or not. As a parent, it doesn't hurt for you to do the same too! First aid courses can help you be more prepared and knowledgeable if a situation ever arises. In the meantime, we have created this simple list that will help you identify symptoms and decipher if it's time to call 911.
15 Baby Has The Sniffles
When your child sniffles, it is a sign of a runny nose. This could be due to the common cold or even just allergies. Even if they are super congested, it is nothing to worry about. Worst case scenario, it could just be an indication of a sinus infection. Children and babies are also more prone to sickness as their immune systems are still developing.
Congestion can be recognized before the runny nose and sniffles come into play. Check if your child is mouth breathing and sounds nasally. When I was a kid, I remember my mom would bounce up to make me tea as soon as she heard any congestion. She would also get us to breathe in hot steam. It cleared my sinuses like a charm! Nasal rinses would also be a good solution to relieve your babies symptoms.
14 Baby Is Constantly Coughing
Sore throat and light cough are nothing to worry about. Obviously, you will hear your child cough so this symptom will be more obvious. The trick is to listen to what kind of cough they have and how long it's lasting. Parents.com goes into more detail about the different types of cough and how to determine what they mean.
"Coughing is an important reflex because it removes the extra mucus and lets air flow more easily through the windpipe and into the lungs, which helps the child to breathe." A dry cough is usually an infection of your nose and throat and a wet cough is usually a sign of asthma or infection. A Croup cough typically means a viral infection and a whooping cough describes a fast cough that gradually gets worse and deeper.
13 Baby Seems Overly Fatigued
General tiredness is normal, especially when your child first catches an illness. Your body will naturally feel tired as your child's immune system is working extra hard to fight off any viruses. In the first 18 months, it is a bit trickier to know if your baby is fatigued – especially because they don't speak yet! Mood is always a great way to gauge this. Is your baby crying a lot? Cranky or moody? These are some tell-tale signs that your baby is feeling fatigued.
Also be aware of how long and often your baby is sleeping. If you notice your child isn't sleeping at all or having trouble falling asleep, this could forecast he or she may be getting a cold. If your baby is feeling tired, they will show it through unimpressed facial expressions, fluttering eyelids and moving their arms and legs around a lot.
12 Baby Is Refusing To Eat
Stomach issues may make you think of the flu, however, it is a common symptom we can experience easily. For example, if you ate something off, ate too much or didn't eat enough, these are all reasons that could contribute to an upset stomach. Your baby may also be lactose intolerant or have another food allergy, like gluten. Pay attention to eating patterns and bring it up to your doctor if you notice certain foods triggering your baby.
Your baby will be very uncomfortable if they have an upset stomach. Frequent spitting up or vomiting is also a sign of this. If your baby is crying, especially when you move them around, this is also a sign they aren't feeling the best. Lack of appetite is another symptom to keep an eye out for when determining if your baby has a sore stomach.
11 Baby Has Low-Grade Fever
The easiest way to check if your baby has a small fever is if they are fussy and their head is hot. If you think they may have a fever, check their temperature to make sure. The fever should not last more than 24 hours and be no higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. Sweating it out, and using cold cloths should do the trick. If all else fails, Advil or Tylenol that is safe for your child's age will be sure to end the fever.
If the fever has lasted more than 24 hours and is higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, it's time for the hospital. Typically, a fever accompanies body aches. This is normal when it is just a cold or common flu. A fever and fussiness are the two tell-tale signs that your child may just be feeling sore. A hot bath will soothe achy symptoms and so will lots of rest!
When It's Time To Call 911
10 Baby Goes Unconscious Or Faints
Dizziness and fainting is not normal – especially in children. Regardless of age, anytime someone goes unconscious or faints, you should call 911. As a lifeguard, if someone is unconscious in the pool we immediately call 911, clear the pool and even assume a potential spinal cord injury. If your child hit their head recently or had a fall, they may feel off, but once they reach the stage of unconsciousness, it is indicating something else is wrong. Out of all the symptoms, this is the most obvious. No response and eyes rolled back are signs of unconsciousness.
If your child is woozy, and just dizzy, I would seek medical care. Feeding your child chocolate will peak their blood sugar levels and help them feel better. Also keep in mind the situation. If this is sudden and persistent sign in your child, definitely get medical help. However, if your child has diabetes or another disease that may warrant this, ensure to follow directions by their health care professional.
9 Baby Is Showing Lethargic Behavior
Confusion and not being able to communicate is considered lethargic and should be taken seriously. Sometimes kids fake or exaggerate, but there is a level where "confusion" is evident and we must sense that out. For example, if they don't know where they are or struggle with minor details of life. As a baby, this may be easier to tell. Since babies are instinctive, your baby will have a pretty consistent motor work of doing things and growing.
If suddenly your baby is struggling sucking their thumb, or even opening their eyes and moving, it is time to call 911. Second to no response, a delayed response is not a good sign either. You will notice such symptoms suddenly as this is usually a result of a prolonged illness or sudden injury.
8 Baby Has A Bloody Cough
Coughing that stops you in your tracks can be a sign of something more serious. Parents.com says, "A dangerous reason for coughing is that something is stuck in the child's throat or windpipe. Also coughing spasms – especially if you pass out." Asthma or allergic reactions, coughing up blood, of if your baby is younger than 1 month and coughs are all reasons to call 911.
If your child was not choking or did not have an allergic reaction, it could indicate a more serious condition. For example, your child could have pneumonia which can lead to death if not treated properly. If it is a chronic cough as described above, don't sweat it. But if your child coughs up blood, has sever coughing suddenly or can't stop coughing, call 911 immediately.
7 Baby Has Uncontrollable Bleeding Or Falls
An injury that won't stop bleeding after pressure and bandages is a need for 911. This is obvious and maybe not be likely, but even a cut that looks small could be deep enough to harm your child or baby. "Bleeding is considered uncontrolled if it does not stop after five minutes of applying direct, steady pressure," according to Rush.edu. "Regardless of the cause — whether it's an injury or a medical condition such as leukemia or hemophilia — you need immediate medical, assistance."
Anytime your baby falls, you must take the same precautions. As an infant, especially a newborn, trauma will come easy – especially if it involves their head. We all know how soft babies heads are, so internal damage is an immediate concern. According to WebMD.com, "Falling from a significant height can injure the head, spine, or internal organs."
6 Baby Has Severe Vomiting Or Diarrhea
Children and babies are more sensitive than adults, although it can often heal quicker if given immediate care. Uncontrolled vomiting and diarrhea is not a good sign as your child is loosing nutrition. In my experience, if it is after a fall, definitely call 911 as it could be a concussion or something worse.
If it's due to a bug, they will get better and respond to treatments right away. If not, WebMD says, "watch out for signs of dehydration such as sunken eyes, dry mucus membranes, and abnormally low amounts of urine." If this is the case, you need to go to the doctor for children and adults. In babies however, go to the hospital if your doctor is not open. Especially if it is profuse and your baby is under 5 months old.
5 Baby Has Poisoning Or Unusually Bad Headaches
Poisoning is especially scary for toddlers. It is as easy as them getting into the medicine cabinet or a household cleaner. The first part of recognizing a potential poisoning is if you see your child with a hazardous product. WebMD recommends to call poison control immediately as they can assess the situation and give immediate advice. If they are unresponsive or foaming from the mouth, call 911 right away.
As for babies, this is a less likely scenario – but it can still happen. Severely bad headaches is also another thing to watch out for. For babies under 1 year, the symptoms are similar to severe pain. For older children, if you notice their headache is unusually bad that they cannot function, call 911 right away – it could be an aneurism.
4 Baby Has Changes In Vision Or Seizures
Any change of vision is not a good sign. Usually when someone faints, they will have a change of vision but other times, it could be more serious. Any seizure is also a call for 911. Changes of vision can be identified in babies by looking at their eyes and movements. Frequent squinting may indicate the need for glasses, but if your baby's eyes start fluttering or looking blank, you'll know they are having an abrupt change in vision.
Changes in vision is a symptom you should call 911 if it is after an injury or result of a seizure. Uncontrolled shakes and spasms is a seizure and you should hold a blanket under your baby if this happens – not try to stop it. If seizures aren't new to your baby, WebMD suggests calling 911 only if it lasts longer than three to five minutes.
3 Baby Has Severe Pain Or Broken Bones
WebMD.com states to call 911 if the pain is so severe you can't control it. It could be a number or things, like internal bleeding or broken bones. Any broken bone needs to get proper care, but especially if it's in your baby. Thankfully, this will be a rare occurrence before they can walk but in toddlers, anything could happen.
Any severe pain that is out of the blue and unwarranted by your baby is also a sign to call 911. Extreme fussiness and crying that is extreme is a sign your baby is in pain. This may also accompany a fever, after an injury to the head or neck or if there was an altered state of consciousness. A baby who is sick will evidently cry and fuss, but not constantly and it shouldn't be abnormal – unless your baby has colic.
2 Baby Has Severe Chest And Abdominal Pain
Chest pain could indicate heart problems and abdomen pain could be a bursting appendix, or a serious disease like chromes. WebMD suggests to call 911 if "there is severe cramping and unrelenting abdominal pain [as] this could indicate appendicitis or kidney stones, for example." You would identify this in your baby only after you have visited a doctor and the condition has escalated to this.
Knowing how to check your child's heart beat is a good way to help indicate if your baby is experiencing chest pain. Baby's typically have a higher heart rate than us, however, no pulse, a scarce pulse or a rapidly racing pulse are all signs of a heart issue - especially if your baby is sweaty or clammy. It is rare for a child to have a heart attack, however, if this is happening, it could indicate a more serious problem.
1 Baby Has Difficulty Breathing
Any shallow breathing or shortness of breath needs to be addressed. A cough could trigger this, but it is an issue if there is no onset. It could be anaphylactic shock or pneumonia. As a baby, you don't know what they are allergic to so it is better to play it safe than sorry. Anaphylactic shock is when the throat and face swell due to an allergic reaction, and the airways get cut-off which will prevent your baby from breathing.
WEB MD says to call 911 if "the rate of breathing is greater than 50 to 60 breaths per minute, the child is turning blue around the mouth, or the condition is worsening instead of improving." Pneumonia can be life-threatening at any age. This can be a concern for your baby if they have been around anyone who was known to have pneumonia, if it is cold outside or if they simply have a reoccurring cough in addition to difficulty breathing.
Sources: WebMD.com, Rush.edu, Parents.com