Because babies can’t communicate their needs, it is sometimes tough to decide whether it’s time for a call to the pediatrician. Of course, if the child loses consciousness, has trouble breathing or has a seizure, the parent would know to act immediately. Short of those symptoms it’s sometimes tricky to know whether you are overreacting by calling the pediatrician.
Even though babies can routinely run fevers, infants younger than 3 months with a fever should be seem by a doctor immediately; if the baby is between 3 and 6 months, that time line increases to 24 hours. Up until the age of 2, little ones with a fever that has lasted more than 48 hours need to be examined. However, at any age, babies with a fever of more than 105 degrees F should see the doctor immediately. Parents should take infants under 2 months with a fever to the emergency room if they cannot contact the doctor.
Parents should be on the lookout for any signs of dehydration in babies. An infant should see the doctor immediately if there are fewer or no wet diapers, or if the urine is yellow rather than clear. Other symptoms of dehydration include dry skin, no tears or sunken eyes. Excessive vomiting or diarrhea can lead to dehydration.
Ears, Eyes and Noses
Checking a crying baby’s eyes, ears and nose may help a parent pick up on symptoms that warrant a call to the doctor. Discolored, bloody or smelly nasal fluid calls for a doctor’s look. A screaming baby who pulls at his ear needs to be seen to check for infection. An infant with swollen, watery or even red eyes or who screams when taken into bright light should see the doctor. Bleeding from the nose is also a cause for concern in babies.
Many pediatric practices provide parents with specific guidelines as to when they would expect a parent to call. In addition, the doctor may add concerns about your child’s particular needs to those guidelines. Sometimes, doctors’ offices will have nurse call lines, so that parents can run generic concerns by a nurse who will help them decide whether the doctor should be involved.
Generally, for inexperienced parents, it is better to make the call rather than wait to see if the condition improves. If you do contact the doctor’s office and they do not feel the child needs to be seen immediately and you do, then it is up to you to decide whether the child should be seen. If you think it is necessary, take your baby to an emergency room.
Flu and Cold Symptoms
A baby who has been vomiting for more than 12 hours or who vomits blood needs a visit to the doctor. Diarrhea that is streaked with blood or mucus or that lasts for several days is a cause for concern. Babies might have a dry cough for a week before the doctor needs to be called, but if the cough becomes wheezy or brings up mucus, it’s time to call the doctor. A runny nose might hang on for a week without any particular concern but not if it produces thick mucus.