Let’s face it – all babies get sick. Your baby’s immune system is still developing, and it’s not as strong as an adult’s. Unfortunately, there are trillions of germs and bacteria in our world. Your body has become immune to many of these germs, since you’ve had years of exposure. But a young baby’s body has yet to encounter them. So, at some point in your baby’s first year of life, he or she will get sick.
Having a sick baby is a worrisome experience for all parents. Seeing your baby coughing, crying nonstop, and feeling uncomfortable is a heartbreaking sight. You want to do all you can to help your sick baby feel better. But should you call the pediatrician every time that your baby is ill? Probably not.
Most pediatricians’ offices won’t mind if you call for routine things, like minor illnesses, injuries, medication questions, behavior and even parenting advice. However, your baby’s doctor probably won’t answer your questions about illnesses or other problems without asking you to make an appointment. Multiple visits to the pediatrician can be costly, so it’s a good idea for you to understand when to call the pediatrician about your sick baby, and when a doctor isn’t needed.
* Disclaimer – Always call your child’s pediatrician if you are ever worried about anything. The information provided in this post is not medical advice, but general information to help inform you better.
When to Call the Pediatrician
If your baby has a simple cough or a cold, you probably don’t need to take him or her to the hospital or interrupt your doctor’s off hours. Questions about a small cough, occasional diarrhea and constipation, and fussiness can wait until your doctor’s normal office hours. Most colds will go away with rest and plenty of fluids; they don’t require cold medication. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you avoid giving babies cough medication, since they can sometimes have dangerous side effects.
If you notice that your sick baby displays any of the following symptoms, you should call the pediatrician ASAP to see if he or she requires urgent medical care:
- Your baby has vomiting and diarrhea that lasts for more than a couple of hours.
- He or she develops a rash that is accompanied by a fever.
- Your sick baby’s cough or cold doesn’t get better within a few days.
- Your baby’s cold is worsening, not getting better, and comes with a fever.
- He or she receives a cut that might need stitches. A band-aid just won’t cut it.
- Your child starts to limp, or is unable to move an arm or a leg.
- Your baby is extremely sleepy, or has unexplained lethargy.
- Your baby develops ear pain with a fever; he or she can’t sleep or drink, is vomiting, has diarrhea, or is acting very sick.
- There’s drainage from one of your baby’s ears.
- Your baby is crying hysterically, and this is unusual for him or her.
- Your baby is having problems swallowing.
- An infant under 2 months old has a rectal temperature that’s higher than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Your baby’s eyes are red, swollen, and watery.
- You find blood in your baby’s urine.
- Your sick baby has a fever and constant vomiting at the same time.
- Your baby is having diarrhea that won’t go away, or bloody diarrhea.
- Your baby refuses to eat, or has a decreased appetite for no reason.
There are many situations, not included in this list, that warrants a call to the pediatrician. As a good rule of thumb, it’s always a good idea to call your pediatrician if your maternal intuition is telling you that something is wrong. Always trust your instinct and your gut. If you’re worried about your baby’s health, don’t hesitate and make that call. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Your sick baby cannot talk and verbalize his illness. So you have to take the initiative and help your baby feel better.
When to Call 911 (or Rush to the Hospital)
Sometimes, you can’t wait to call the pediatrician. You need to act ASAP. If your baby is injured, or seriously ill, you may need to call 911 (or your local emergency number) or rush your baby to the nearest emergency room.
If your baby has any of the following symptoms, it’s highly advisable that you call 911 or go to the hospital immediately.
- Your baby is bleeding, and no direct pressure on the wound is stopping the blood flow.
- You think your baby has been poisoned, or swallowed something poisonous.
- Your baby is having a seizure.
- Your infant is having trouble breathing.
- Your baby’s skin or lips start to turn blue, purple, or gray.
- Your baby has neck stiffness, or a rash with a fever.
- Your baby has experienced a head injury and is unconscious, vomiting, or has poor skin color.
- Your baby is acting weird. He or she is less alert.
Again, you should trust your instinct. If you think your baby’s life is in danger, you need to call 911 right away.
Tips for Avoiding the Pediatrician’s Wrath
To avoid annoying your pediatrician, you should find out the pediatrician’s policies beforehand. Learn your baby’s doctor’s office hours, on-call hours, contact number in off-hour emergencies. Before you make the phone call, grab a pen and paper and write down any questions you might have. It can be easy to forget things during a frantic phone call, so writing down things ahead of time can give you more peace of mind.
When you’re calling, make sure that you’re near your baby. So that if your pediatrician asks you question about your sick baby, you can quickly answer them.
Again, always trust your instincts. If you’re ever worried about your sick baby, please call your child’s pediatrician.