When to Call the Doctor?

You’ve probably already had times when you just weren’t sure whether to call your baby’s healthcare provider with a question or concern. How do you know what’s normal and when it’s time to call the doctor?

First, always trust your instincts. If something doesn’t seem right, or you have a pressing question about your baby’s well-being, call the healthcare provider

That said, below are signs and symptoms in your baby that warrant calling the doctor, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and other child healthcare providers.

Fever

Contact your baby’s healthcare provider about a fever using these guidelines:

  • Under 3 months of age: Any temperature of 100.4º F (38.0°C) or above taken rectally.
  • 3–6 months:  A temperature of up to 102.2º F (39º C) with other symptoms, or a temp higher than 102.2ºF with or without other symptoms. (The doctor may or may not want you to bring your baby in to be seen for a 102.2º F fever. It often depends on the other symptoms.)
  • 6–24 months: A temperature higher than 102º F (38.8º C) for longer than a day with no other symptoms. If there are symptoms with the fever, contact the healthcare provider sooner.

Other Health Conditions

Call the healthcare provider if your baby:

  • Shows signs of dehydration: Crying with no tears (though some newborns do not yet have tears), lack of urination for more than 6 hours, sunken eyes or a sunken soft spot on the head
  • Is difficult to wake up, or seems severely drowsy and not alert
  • Has blood in the diaper or blood in vomit
  • Has frequent diarrhea or constipation (fewer bowel movements than usual for a few days and seems uncomfortable)
  • Experiences rapid breathing or difficulty breathing
  • Vomits often and forcefully (more than spitting up)
  • Has a serious cold—with difficulty breathing, nasal mucus for longer than 10–14 days, ear pain, or a cough that lasts longer than 1 week
  • Has a rash that appears infected or suddenly gets an unexplained rash accompanied by a fever 
  • Has redness or mucus discharge from one or both eyes 
In an Emergency

Before any emergency happens, know what to do and where to go. Ask your baby’s healthcare provider in advance where to go if your baby needs emergency care. Take first aid and infant CPR classes, and keep emergency phone numbers and addresses easily accesslble.

Seek emergency care for your baby for:

  • Increasing difficulty breathing
  • Skin or lips that look blue, purple or gray
  • Bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • Change in consciousness, confusion, apparent headache or repeated vomiting after a head injury
  • Unconsciousness
  • Suspected poisoning
  • Seizures
  • Deep cuts or burns
  • Significant smoke inhalation
  • Pain that worsens significantly or becomes severe
  • Serious mouth or facial injuries
  • Near drowning

Disclaimer: This page is not intended to provide medical advice about your child. Always seek the advice of a physician, qualified healthcare provider or child-development specialist with any questions you have about your child's health, medical condition or development. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you read here.

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