It's easy to worry about your newborn's health when everything is so unfamiliar at first. In this section I review a few of the more common ailments you may encounter with your baby. Be sure to read the box below. It lists some of the symptoms of illness you should be able to recognize in your baby. If you notice any of them, call your doctor.
It may be difficult for you to tell that your baby has an ear infection. Symptoms that may indicate an ear infection in babies under 6 months old include:
|irritability that lasts all day|
Besides being hard to discern, these symptoms may not be accompanied by fever. For babies between 6 and 12 months of age, symptoms are similar, except that fever is more common. The onset of ear pain may be sudden, acute and more noticeable.
If dehydration occurs, call your doctor immediately. Below are some warning signs to watch for.
|Baby wets fewer than six diapers a day.|
|Baby's urine is dark yellow or orange. It should be pale yellow.|
|Baby has fewer than two loose stools a day.|
|Baby seems to be having trouble sucking.|
|The soft spot on baby's head is sunken in.|
|Baby is listless or otherwise appears unhealthy.|
If you're concerned about diarrhea, call your doctor. A change in the number of diapers used or a change in the consistency of the bowel movement is the first clue.
If your baby has diarrhea, he or she will need extra water and minerals to prevent dehydration. Your healthcare provider may recommend an oral electrolyte solution to help replenish your baby's lost fluids and minerals.
Jaundice is common. It is caused by too much bilirubin in the baby's blood and can be dangerous if left untreated. It is usually not difficult to treat.
To diagnose jaundice, the baby's color is observed by the pediatrician and the nurses in the baby nursery. The baby looks yellow because of the excess amounts of bilirubin in the blood. Bilirubin is measured by a blood test.
Phototherapy is the treatment of choice. The baby is placed under special lights; the light penetrates the baby's skin and destroys the bilirubin. In some parts of the country, such as the Southwest, special lights may not be necessary. The baby is merely placed in the sunshine for short periods of time, and the sunlight destroys the excess bilirubin. In more severe cases, blood-exchange transfusions may be necessary.
Colic is a condition marked by episodes of loud, sudden crying and fussiness, which can often last for hours, in a baby that is otherwise healthy. About 20% of all babies experience the pain and crying caused by colic. In full-blown colic, the abdomen becomes distended and the infant passes gas often.
The only way to know if your baby has colic is to see your pediatrician or family physician. He or she can determine if it is colic or if your baby is having some other problem.
Colic usually appears gradually in the infant about 2 weeks after birth. As days pass, the condition worsens, then often disappears around the age of 3 months. Occasionally colic lasts until 4 months. Colic attacks usually occur at night beginning in the late afternoon and early evening and last 3 to 4 hours. The attacks cease as quickly as they begin.
Researchers have been studying colic and its causes for a long time, but we still have little understanding of why it occurs. Theories about its causes include:
|immaturity of the digestive system|
|intolerance to cow's-milk protein in formula or breast milk|
|fatigue in the infant|