New moms and dads are all too familiar with the fear of their baby’s inevitable first sickness. Whether it ends up being just a cold, an ear infection, or something worse, the anxiety beforehand is enough to make any new parent want to stick their little one in a sterile plastic bubble. You’ve probably found yourself wondering things like, “What can I do to speed up my child’s recovery? Which medicines can I give him or her? When do I need to call a doctor?” and a million other questions.
Even though you’ll probably never feel fully prepared for the first time your baby gets sick (and let’s face it, does anyone ever feel fully prepared for parenthood?), you can still answer some of your questions ahead of time. We’ve put together some essential information for taking care of your sick baby that you’ll definitely want to know before the first sickness strikes.
NEWBORNS UNDER THREE MONTHS
If your little one is a newborn less than three months old, you should take extra precautions. If your little one is unusually fussy, coughing, sniffing, or showing other symptoms of illness, you should take their temperature right away. A rectal temperature of more than 100.4ºF means you should call your doctor right away and potentially make a trip to your pediatrician’s office as soon as possible. Even if your child doesn’t have a fever but is showing other signs of discomfort, like rubbing at his or her ears and eyes, you’ll want to give your doctor a call in case it’s an ear infection or conjunctivitis (pink eye).
While a fever means that your baby’s body is simply working hard to fight off an infection, it’s worth checking with a professional to make sure the underlying infection isn’t serious. Newborns are at risk for long-term effects of more serious illnesses like Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which, though common and easily treatable, can cause asthma in children later in life. So it never hurts to check with your doctor, just to be safe!
BABIES OLDER THAN THREE MONTHS
For babies older than three months of age, you may not have to call your doctor right away at any sign of sickness, though you should still be alert to any concerning symptoms. If the fever is higher than 101ºF and lasts more than a few days or is accompanied by symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, rash, or seizures, you should definitely contact a doctor immediately. If your baby has a low-grade fever or no fever at all, here are a couple tips that will help you know how to best care for him or her:
Fluids – Make sure your baby is taking plenty of fluids, especially when they could be dehydrated due to fever or diarrhea. Milk, formula, water, and even infant electrolyte drinks can help keep your baby hydrated and fighting off the infection.
Baths – Warm baths can help soothe a baby with the shivers or sore muscles, while a cool bath can help bring down a baby’s temperature if they have a fever.
Humidifiers & Saline – If your little one is dealing with congestion of the nose or chest, dry air can exacerbate the condition. Instead, use a gentle humidifier to keep the air in your nursery moist. This will help break up the mucus and clear out your baby’s sinuses or lungs! While it’s not recommended that you use over-the-counter medicines for your infant without consulting a doctor, infant saline is a safe, gentle, non-medicinal way to help clear out your baby’s little nose.
Medicines Your Doctor Suggests – Always check with your doctor if you think that medicine could help. Your doctor may suggest an infant over-the-counter medicine that will help relieve your baby’s discomfort, or your doctor may prescribe a prescription medicine, like antibiotics, if the condition requires it.
Remember, you know your baby best. If your child is acting differently and you think it may be an infection, even if your baby isn’t showing symptoms yet, trust your gut! Though you’re a new parent and at times you may feel unprepared, your parental instincts will help guide you through situations like these. And if you need any more helpful parenting tips, advice, and content, make sure you sign up for our email list.