When a healthy baby keeps crying for no known reason, it is called colic. Doctors usually consider babies to have colic if they cry:
* 3 hours or more a day
* At least 3 days a week
* 3 weeks or longer
* With no medical reason for why they are crying
* Starts when a baby is a couple weeks old
* Is worst when the baby is around 3 months old
* Slowly goes away by 4 months of age
* Happens in the late afternoon and evening
* Can range from mild fussiness to a red-faced wail
* Is not a disease
* Affects about 10 percent to 20 percent of all babies
Colic can be very frustrating for parents, but it will eventually end. The main thing to focus on is finding ways to soothe the baby and avoid things that start the crying. You may have to watch your baby and then try different things to find out what works.
Many health care providers recommend holding the baby as much as possible, even during the early part of the day, to help stop colic. You can’t “spoil” babies by holding them too much. They may need less noise, light and touch. Different things work for different babies.
Remember to take care of yourself during these first few months of your baby’s life. Seek help if you find yourself losing patience or becoming overwhelmed.
And remember that this phase will pass.
Your 2-year-old can’t talk to you without coughing. Your baby tugs at her ear and whimpers. Colds, coughs and ear infections are as much a part of childhood as the pacifier, the playpen and the playground. Recognizing symptoms of illness, learning how to treat them and knowing when to call the doctor are a parent’s best defense against common childhood ailments.
Twenty percent of babies have colic – regular, long periods of crying. Colic begins at 3 weeks and usually ends at 4 months. Colic typically starts in the late afternoon and continues to early evening. Colicky babies seem to be in pain when they clench their fists and draw in their arms and legs. The cause is unknown but could have something to do with the baby’s immature digestion or nervous system, which causes pain.
What to do:
* Swaddle the baby so he/she feels warm and secure.
* Carry the baby in your arms or an infant carrier. An infant swing also can help.
* Try burping the baby, changing her environment or using a warm hot water bottle on the baby’s abdomen.
* Try calming her with “white noise” from a vacuum cleaner or washing machine.
A sign of constipation is pain with the passage of a bowel movement. The condition usually comes from a diet deficient in fruit, vegetables and whole grains or, in rare cases, can be physiological. Babies who strain aren’t necessarily constipated. Often, they strain because they are lying down or their bowels and rectum are not yet coordinated.
* Give stool softeners when instructed to do so by a doctor.
* Change your child’s diet to one that includes more fluids and high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
* Cut back on constipating foods like bananas, milk and white rice.
* Have your child get more physical exercise.
Call the doctor if your child is in extreme pain, the anal area has tears or there is bleeding. Glycerin suppositories should not be used on a regular basis.
A cough is a symptom of an illness, not an illness itself. A cough could develop as a cold or flu gets worse. Coughing is a helpful defense mechanism because it prevents substances and objects from harming the throat and lungs.
Call the doctor if:
* You suspect your child has swallowed or inhaled a foreign object.
* Your child is younger than 3 months.
* Your child is wheezing or the cough is violent or persistent.
* The cough becomes worse.
* Your child develops a fever.
Croup is an infection in the upper airways of the lungs. It makes a child’s breathing noisy, resembling the bark of a dog or seal. Most common in children younger than 5, it gets worse at night and lasts from a few hours to a week.
To help with croup:
* Prop your child up in bed, or use a vaporizer in the room.
* If a child has a bad attack at night, bundle your baby up and go into the night air. The fresh air can decrease swelling and clear away mucus.
* Contact your baby’s doctor if the child is having difficulty breathing.
Sometimes a viral infection, food allergies or excessive fruit juices can cause diarrhea. Diarrhea could also be caused by contaminated water or parasites that attack the intestinal tract. Treat by giving plenty of clear fluids such as water or a specially formulated liquid to replace lost fluids, such as Pedialyte(r).
Call the doctor if:
* Your baby is younger than 1 month old.
* Your child is also vomiting clear fluids.
* Your child has abdominal pain from the navel to the lower right side of the abdomen (possible appendicitis).
* Blood is in the diarrhea or stool.
* The diarrhea is accompanied by a high fever or lasts more than 48 hours.
* You suspect the child may have food poisoning (i.e., from seafood, undercooked meat) or if your child has returned from foreign travel or a camping trip.
Children who pull or rub their ears may have an ear infection or the ear may itch from soap or shampoo. Call the doctor if your child is in pain, cries with no cause, can’t sleep or has a fever higher than 100 degrees F.
* Do not use cotton swabs in the ears of a baby or child because they may move protective earwax or may damage the eardrum if inserted too far.
* To ease the pain, use a warm hot-water bottle, wrapped in a dry towel and hold it against the ear.
* Keep the ear dry. Avoid shampoos and bubble baths. When bathing a child with an external ear infection, put cotton in the ear to keep water out.
Redness of the white part of the eye or the inner eyelids could be pinkeye or conjunctivitis. Pinkeye can come with a cold and is usually a viral infection. Call the doctor if the child’s eyes are matted after sleeping, swollen shut or if there’s a yellow discharge. Antibiotic drops may be needed. Pinkeye is contagious so give a sick child her own towel.
* Itchy, tearing eyes and swollen eyelids could be from an animal or environmental allergy.
* Bacteria that have infected a hair follicle cause a stye. A symptom of a stye is a pimple or sensitive, red bump at the base of an eyelash. Wash the outer eyelids with an antibacterial soap. Put a warm compress to the eye for 10 minutes, four times a day to help the style come to a head. Call the doctor if styes spread or recur.
When a child is flushed, sweating, lethargic, or chilled he may have a fever. A fever is really not an illness in itself. Fever is a normal response to infections. It activates the body’s immune system causing the release of white blood cells and other substances to fight the infection.
* Call your doctor if your baby is younger than 6 months and has a rectal temperature over 100.4 degrees F, or if your child older than 6 months has a fever higher than 102 degrees F.
* Call if your child can’t stop crying, cries if you touch him, is difficult to awaken or has trouble breathing.
A nosebleed is caused when a small blood vessel breaks in the lining of the nose. It comes usually in winter when the dry air irritates the nose lining or when a cold inflames nasal passages.
To stop the bleeding:
* Calm your child and get him into a sitting or standing position, leaning forward to prevent the blood from going down the throat.
* Pinch the front of the nose firmly to close it while your child breathes through the mouth; continue for 10 minutes. Try another 10 minutes if bleeding hasn’t stopped.
* Call the doctor if bleeding persists.
More than 30 percent of newborns have small red bumps on the face that will go away at 4 to 6 months. Do not treat them. Cradle cap appears in the first few weeks of life and clears up by itself in a few weeks. If the scalp is crusty, mineral oil can be used to soften it an hour before washing the scalp.
* Rash on an infant’s face could be from drooling.
* Red patches on the cheeks or in the creases of the elbows, wrists, or knees, may be eczema – a dry skin condition. Apply lubricating creams liberally after bathing.
* Diaper rash is common in babies with sensitive skin. Change diapers frequently and increase air exposure to the area. Avoid plastic pants.
* Call your doctor if a rash is purple or blood-colored, bright red and tender to the touch, or has red streaks.
A stuffy nose is a symptom of a cold. Saline (salt water) nose drops and suctioning can bring relief. Mix 1/4 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water. Make a fresh solution every few days and store in a clean bottle. Use an eyedropper or a wet cotton ball to drop it into the nose. Do not give drops for more than three days.
* For a young child who can’t blow the nose: put three drops of the solution into each nostril. After a minute use a rubber suction bulb to suck out the drops and mucus, or a cotton swab to wipe out loosened mucus. Try to limit the use of saline drops to four times a day, just prior to feeding or at bedtime.
* For an older child who can blow the nose: have her lie on her back on a bed with her head hanging over the side. Wait a minute, and then have your child blow her nose.
A sore throat is a symptom of a cold as well as many respiratory illnesses, and is common from ages 5 to 10. Sometimes, a child will have a sore throat upon awakening which clears up after drinking. To soothe children, give throat lozenges (if age 4 or older), acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Try using a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier. A sore throat may be strep throat. Strep should be treated early to prevent complications.
Call the doctor if:
* Your child can’t swallow or open the mouth fully.
* Your child can’t breathe normally or sounds as if he has marbles in his mouth.
* The throat is bright red.
* Your child has a rash or fever.
* Your child is drooling.
* Your child has a persistent sore throat.
Swollen glands, usually in the neck area, are caused by an inflammation of the lymph nodes and are the body’s response to infection. To alleviate pain, apply a warm compress and give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Call the doctor if a gland is hard, feels warm or is very painful.
Tooth pain in a child could be the eruption of a new tooth, gum irritation from impacted food, mouth sores, or a sinus infection. Until you visit the doctor or dentist, ease the pain with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, put a hot water bottle wrapped in cloth on your child’s cheek, or use prescribed medication from your doctor.
Vomiting and nausea
Vomiting comes from motion sickness, allergies, overeating, food poisoning, bacteria or a virus.
* Replace lost fluids with sips of water or other clear fluids to prevent dehydration.
* When your child resumes solid food, give only light foods and NOT those high in fat and sugar.
* Do not give your child aspirin (which can irritate the stomach and can cause Reye’s syndrome) or over-the-counter medications for nausea. If your child is only nauseous and is not vomiting, it is usually not serious.
* Call the doctor if the nausea lasts more than a week, or if your child cannot hold down even clear fluids.
Wheezing sounds like a whistling sound when your child breathes out. It is common in patients with asthma who have a cold. If your child has asthma, have her use her inhaler and take her medication. Contact your doctor for instructions.
Call your doctor immediately if:
* Your child is breathing with great difficulty or turning blue.
* She is wheezing for the first time.
* She has been diagnosed with asthma but is not responding the way she does usually.
* Wheezing is accompanied by fever and chest pain.