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When Your Newborn Baby Gets Sick

When your newborn baby is sick, acting out of sorts or you feel like something just isn’t right, don’t panic. While they are too young to tell you how they feel, there are things you can do and observe that will help you and your Boys Town Pediatrician understand what’s happening with baby.

Common Newborn Illnesses

Newborns are susceptible to the same illnesses as adults. Those infections can be broken down into three categories:

  • Viral
  • Bacterial
  • Fungal

Viral infections, or viruses, are the most common illness for a newborn. This includes COVID-19, RSV, upper respiratory infections, rhinoviruses and anything that causes cold symptoms such as congestion, a runny nose and a cough.

Just like adults, a baby with a viral infection will be sick for about seven to 10 days. Since not all babies are the same though, it can last a little longer, so be ready for that. A cough and congestion can last up to two weeks.

Bacterial infections include things like pneumonia, ear infections and skin infections. Diarrhea can also be caused by bacteria. The important thing, especially with diarrhea, is to keep baby hydrated. One way you can tell if baby is getting enough fluids is by diaper changes. You should see upwards of 10 wet diapers a day.

Fungal infections include thrush and skin infections such as diaper rash. Depending on the severity, your doctor may prescribe an anti-fungal cream or recommend an over-the-counter option.

Fever Means Call Your Doctor

If you think your baby is sick, the first thing you should do is check for a fever. Any increase over normal temperature of 98.6 degrees is cause to call your pediatrician immediately, especially within the first two months. Don’t give it time or try to treat it on your own.

Parents can use an oral or temporal thermometer to take a newborns temperature, but the most accurate way is with a rectal thermometer. Here are some tips when using a rectal thermometer:

  • Insert it just past the silver part at the end of the thermometer.
  • You can use Vaseline, but it really shouldn’t bother baby to have their temperature taken rectally.

If you are in doubt about whether your baby should see a doctor, call the nurse line at your pediatrician’s office for guidance.

To learn more about what to do when your newborn is sick, you can watch the Facebook Live with Dr. McCarthy here. This Facebook Live was recorded on April 3 so the Q&A and giveaways are no longer live.​

Newborn;Illness Pediatrics