Babies may feel unwell sometimes. Knowing the different baby problems and conditions will help you ease your baby’s discomfort.
How do you deal with colic, heat rash and other medical conditions?
There are some common problems or conditions that your baby may experience as he/she grows up. Here is a list of some babies' problems and conditions and what you can do to help your child.
Common infant illnesses
Your baby will experience coughs, colds, and other problems as part of the growing process.
What it is: Symptoms include a blocked and runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing and coughing. He may also have a fever.
What to do: Consult a doctor. Your doctor may prescribe nasal decongestants (a drug used to relieve nasal congestion) and nasal saline to clear the mucus. This helps the baby to breathe better.
What it is: A temperature above 37.5˚C indicates a fever. Fever may be a symptom of a serious infection.
What to do: See a doctor especially if your baby is less than 3 months old, or if the fever is very high, or he/she appears unwell.
What it is: The sound of your baby coughing might not mean something is wrong as coughing is the body’s way of clearing bacteria, mucus and irritating substances from the airways.
What to do: Give him lots of rest and fluids. See a doctor if the baby has difficulty breathing or feeding, or if the baby has a high fever.
What it is: It is an infection of the small airways of the lungs. It causes wheezing (a high-pitched whistling sound when breathing out), and rapid or difficult breathing.
What to do: See a doctor if his breathing is laboured and if he is lethargic, and refuses to eat and drink.
What it is: Some babies at around a month old may not have bowel movements daily. It becomes a problem only when your baby’s bowel pattern slows down very much, his stools are harder than usual or if he shows visible discomfort, a swollen abdomen, or becomes cranky.
What to do: Bring your baby to see a doctor.
What it is: This is when your baby passes out more frequent or more watery stools than he/she normally does.
What to do: Give your baby enough milk to prevent dehydration. There are special fluids, electrolyte solutions, which replace water and salts lost during diarrhoea (consult a doctor before giving to your baby).
Consult your doctor, if you have any concern or if symptoms persist. See your doctor immediately if you detect any of these signs:
- Dehydration: passes very little urine. Dry skin, mouth and tongue
- Sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on top of baby’s head, if your baby is younger than 18 months)
- Refuses to drink
- Has passed six or more watery stools or vomited three or more times in a day
- Has green vomit, and refuses to drink
- Has severe abdominal pain
- Is lethargic or irritable
- Has cool hands and feet; feels clammy to the touch
- Has shallow breathing and a fever
- Stools contain a lot of mucus and blood
What it is: If your baby cries more than three hours a day, at around the same time (usually late afternoon or evening) more than three days a week for more than three weeks, he probably has colic.
The crying is intense and it may be difficult to calm him down. He may clench his fists, tense his abdominal muscles and curl up his legs. Colic usually starts a few weeks after birth, peaks at 4 - 6 weeks and ends by the third month. The exact cause of colic is not known. Some possible contributing factors include excessive swallowing of air, milk allergy and an immature digestive system.
What to do: Comfort your baby by:
- giving him small but frequent feeds, and burp him well
- cuddling him close to you, swaying or rocking him
- talking or singing softly to him
- giving him colic medication as a trial for a few days.
It may cause a great deal of stress and worry for you when your baby has colic. These are some tips to help you cope with stress:
- Get help from your husband, family members and friends to avoid getting exhausted, overwhelmed and depressed.
- Know that this condition is temporary. Colic episodes usually end by the third month.
Consult a doctor immediately if:
- your baby does not stop crying, even after you have tried everything
- your baby takes in only half of the usual feeds or refuses to eat at all
- you are worried
- you cannot cope with his crying.
What it is: It is normal for babies to spit up (throw up a small amount of milk). This happens as milk in the full stomach moves backwards or has a reflux into the gullet of young infants.
What to do: Feed your baby in a semi-upright position. Burp your baby frequently during and after each feed to keep air from building up in his/her stomach. You could also try feeding your baby more often, but with less milk at each feed. See a doctor if your baby chokes, coughs, and seems to be in pain, or if he/she continuously vomits a large amount of milk.
What it is: These are clear or red spots. They usually appear on the areas where the baby perspires a lot, eg. forehead, face, folds of the neck, chest and arms.
What to do: Dress your baby in cool, lightweight clothing in warm weather. Turn on the air-conditioner or fan to keep your baby cool. Heat rash will go away by itself.
Common infant medical conditions
There are some medical conditions that your baby may experience. Always speak to your doctor for the best way to manage these conditions.
What it is: It is an inherited condition, usually affecting baby boys (25% Chinese and Malay), where the body has insufficient glucose- 6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) enzymes. In this condition, the red blood cells may break down and cause jaundice and anaemia. All newborns are screened for G6PD deficiency by their cord blood.
What to do: If your newborn is diagnosed with G6PD deficiency, the doctor will counsel you about the condition and the precautions to take for your baby.
What it is: Jaundice is common in babies for the first 3 weeks of life. It is the yellowish discolouration in your baby's skin and white of his/her eyes. It is caused by the presence of bilirubin in the blood, which is the product of normal breakdown of red blood cells.
What to do: Your baby is checked for jaundice routinely during his/her birth and hospitalisation. Upon discharge from the hospital, you will be advised to bring your baby to the clinic for a follow-up check on the 4th or 5th day after birth. The doctor will advise you whether your baby needs treatment for jaundice. The usual treatment is phototherapy, where your baby is placed under blue light in the hospital nursery.
What it is: Due to your baby’s position in the womb, he may point his feet downwards and inwards. This is diagnosed during a newborn’s physical examination. The problem is not painful but it can interfere with walking if not corrected.
What to do: Consult your doctor who may recommend physical therapy. More serious cases may need to be treated with corrective shoes or surgery.
What it is: Greasy, crusty, scaly patches on the baby’s scalp. It will usually disappear after 1-2 months.
What to do: Wash your baby’s hair as you normally do. You can also apply some olive oil to soften the scales so that they wash off more easily. If the cradle cap seems to be increasing, see a doctor for advice.
What it is: These are light red or tan-pink patches of rough scaly skin on his cheeks and body.
What to do: Seek the doctor’s advice.
What it is: It looks like a bright red rash, usually in the diaper region or where the skin folds are. It is caused by a fungus called Candida albicans.
What to do: See the doctor. Your baby will need anti-fungal cream to treat it.
Health Promotion Board