What warning signs in my infant should make me call a doctor?

Babies let you know they aren't feeling well by changing a routine. In this video, I will explain that changes in sleeping patterns or feeding, vomiting and fever can all be signs that you need to call your doctor.
Dr. Darria Long Gillespie, MD
Emergency Medicine
There’s no doubt about it—it’s scary for a parent when your baby seems to be sick. And it can be hard to know what to do, too, because health issues in infants don’t always show up the same way as they do in adults. If you see these signs, call your doctor.
  • Fever: For a baby under 3 months old, this means any temperature above 100.4 degrees, even if the child seems to be fine. For infants 3 months to 3 years old, call the doctor for a temp above 102, or if the fever has been over 100.4 for three or more days.
  • Refusing to eat or drink
  • Vomiting such that she can’t keep down fluids
  • Seems lethargic
  • Rash all over the body, especially if you press it and it doesn’t turn white
  • Breathing problems: rapid, shallow breathing, or using lots of muscles to breathe, or violent coughing with difficulty breathing beforehand
  • Seizure
Finally, follow your own gut instinct. If something about your child just doesn’t seem right, call your doctor.  No one knows your baby better than you!
Call your pediatrician if your infant (under one year) has any of these signs. These are danger signs that need attention fast. If you can’t reach your child’s doctor quickly, get your child to the Emergency Department (ED) or an urgent care center right away. Ditto if your pediatrician doesn’t think it’s an emergency but you still have strong doubts. When in doubt, always head to the emergency department or urgent care center.
  • Inconsolable crying or lethargy
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea for twenty-four hours or more
  • Dry diapers for twelve hours or more
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Refusing fluids for twenty-four hours or more
  • A fever above 100.4 degrees (taken rectally) in infants less than two months old
  • Fever with a red or purple rash
  • Seizure-like jerking movements
  • Loss of consciousness or syncope—the medical term for fainting
  • General listlessness, dry mouth, crying with no tears, not urinating or urinating very dark urine (all signs of dehydration).
From The Smart Parent's Guide: Getting Your Kids Through Checkups, Illnesses, and Accidents by Jennifer Trachtenberg.
Ask your doctor any questions about your baby's change in behavior that concern you. Some of the signs that should warn you to contact your baby's doctor urgently include the following: fever (greater than 100.4F taken rectally, especially in the first month of life); inconsolable crying or lethargy; any seizure activity; respiratory distress (difficult breathing or turning blue); any loss of consciousness; and if the baby shows signs of dehydration (dry diapers, not drinking fluids or diarrhea/vomiting lasting longer than 24 hours).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.