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When To Call A Doctor

Posted by Lisa LaGrou May 1, 2008 Family Health

altIf you are worried about an illness in your baby call your doctor. Before you call, note on paper, your baby’s temperature and all the symptoms that worry you. Here are some things your doctor may wish to know:


  • Physical symptoms. Abnormal temperature, breathing difficulties, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, fewer wet diapers, rash.
  • Behavioral symptoms. Loss of appetite, listlessness, unusual fussiness or irritability, change in typical behavior and activity level (for example, if your baby loses interest in his surroundings or is unable to muster a quiet smile).
  • Home treatment. What have you done to treat the illness, and how has your child responded? Have you given your child any medications? What and when?
  • General considerations. Has there been recent exposure to illness? Is anyone at home or day care sick?

Have paper and pencil handy to write down your doctor’s suggestions. Also, know your pharmacist’s phone number, as the doctor may want to call in a prescription.



It is normal for babies to have a slight, stuffy noise in their noses. Your infant probably has a cold, however, if he has a very runny nose, is fussier than usual, has trouble eating and sleeping, and perhaps has a slight fever. To lessen the chance of a cold, minimize the number of visitors (adults and children) when the baby is very young. People with colds should stay away. You will probably want to consult your physician for you baby’s first cold.

Bowel Movements

A newborn’s stool pattern is different from an adult’s. Your baby’s first bowel movements will consist of meconium, a sticky, green-black substance present in the intestine before birth. For two to six days following birth, his stools will be a mixture of meconium and milk by-products, spinach-green or yellow in color. Later, your baby will have yellow, green, or brown stools with or without curds. The frequency depends on the baby and food he is fed. Formula fed babies may have fewer stools. Breastfed babies may have a stool after each feeding or a least three or four large runny stools a day once your milk is in.

Constipation, hard, dry stools that are difficult to pass, is rarely found in breastfed babies. Some older breastfed babies have only one bowel movement per week. These babies are not constipated; their more mature digestive systems are efficiently using more of their mothers’ milk. Call your doctor, if you are concerned.

If stools are mucousy, foul smelling, more frequent than usual, blood-tinged or watery (the diaper show a water ring around the stool, your baby probably has diarrhea). When in doubt, note the color, consistency, and frequency of you baby’s stool; then call your doctor.

Spitting up

Many babies spit up milk during or after a feeding. Some babies spit up more than others. Some babies have an immature sphincter muscle at the top of their stomachs, which allows milk to come up with air bubbles. Spitting up is not harmful but you can reduce it by burping your baby during and after feedings, not overfeeding him, handling him gently, and positioning him in the following ways after feeding: on his side, sitting in an infant or car seat with his head elevated twenty to thirty degrees, or laying him on his tummy. Babies outgrow the tendency to spit up by five to nine months of age. If spitting up seems to be associated with pain, call your baby’s doctor. Continuous or frequent forceful (projectile) vomiting is more serious and can lead to dehydration. If concerned call your doctor.

Diaper Rash

To prevent or treat diaper rash, change diapers frequently, rinse the diaper area with water at each change, and avoid plastic pants which retain moisture. You can reduce irritation from laundry detergents by running the diapers through an extra rinse cycle or by changing to milder product, such as Dreft. Other treatments include exposing the rash to fresh air for a few hours each day, blow-drying you baby’s clean bottom with a hair dryer set at medium heat, or applying a commercial ointment to the clean, dry, irritated skin.

Facial Rashes

Mild rashes on the face commonly occur in the first month of life. The rashes-smooth pimples, small red spots, or rough red spots-come and go and rarely require treatment.

Prickly Heat

This common, warm-weather rash appears on overdressed or over-wrapped babies. Found most often in the shoulder and neck regions, prickly heat looks like clusters of tiny pink pimples surrounded by pink skin. As it dries the rash becomes slightly tan. Prickly heat may look worse than it apparently feels to your baby.

Cradle Cap

Cradle cap is a yellowish, scaly, patch condition found on the scalp or sometimes behind the ears. Daily washing or brushing of the scalp may prevent cradle cap and will help treat it if it does appear. Comb or brush out the scales, using a baby comb, fingernail brush, or soft toothbrush; wash with mild soap.


Many babies have a regular fussy time every day. This period often occurs in the late afternoon or evening, when everyone else in the house is tired and wants peace. You might find that cuddling and attention helps. Also, try:

  • Wrap baby snug in a blanket
  • Motion – try a swing, rocker, front pack, sling, a walk in a stroller, car ride.
  • Suckling, nursing or pacifier
  • Play music. The dishwasher, washing machine, clothes dryer, or vacuum cleaner may provide soothing music.
  • Your baby may be bored or over-stimulated

Some parents fear that if they give their babies too much attention, they will spoil them. A newborn cannot be spoiled. He needs feeding, attention, cuddling, and handling to develop a trust in your ability to meet his needs. When baby cries he needs more care, not less.


No one knows the exact cause of colic, so it is sometimes difficult to confirm. You can suspect colic if you baby cries inconsolably at about the same time every day –often between 6pm & 10pm. Baby may draw his knees up in pain and scream loudly for two to twenty minutes; then the crying stops, only to resume later. He may pass gas. Colicky babies seem to thrive just fine. Try:

  • Using a comfort hold that provides pressure against his abdomen: lying on his abdomen across your lap or on a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel sitting on your hip facing away from you, or lying on your arm looking away from you.
  • Sucking – breast, bottle, pacifier
  • Walking or rocking him
  • Maintaining a tension-free atmosphere as much as possible. This may mean getting away from colicky baby for a while.
  • Swaddling, holding him close, or putting him in a front pack.

Talk to your doctor about possible food sensitivities

When in doubt, call your doctor. Trust your instincts and feelings!!!

Call the Crittenton Hospital Medical Center’s physician referral service at 888-90-4HEALTH (4325) or go online to www.crittenton.com/fad/?ID=181&SID=1

Call Crittenton Hospital Medical Center’s Community Health & Education Department at 248-652-5269 for registration and information or visit www.crittenton.com/?id=103&SID=1

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