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Pediatric - Newborn Illness

Newborn illness - how to recognize

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Does this describe your child's symptoms?

  • This guideline covers the subtle ways that infection and other serious diseases can present in newborns (birth through 30 days)

  • Newborns are at increased risk for infections, especially during the first 7 days of life.
  • Newborns who develop bloodstream infections (sepsis) can deteriorate rapidly.
  • The symptoms of serious illness in newborns can be subtle and atypical. That is why the statement "Age under 1 month old (newborn) and starts to look or act sick in any way" is found in the "Call Your Doctor Now" section of at least 10 topics.
  • If your newborn's appearance or behavior changes and you think it's abnormal, don't hesitate to call your baby's doctor now for expert advice.

If not, see these topics

When to Call Your Doctor

Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If
  • Unresponsive or difficult to awaken
  • Not moving or very weak
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • Overt symptoms of any illness including vomiting (especially any bile - yellow or green), diarrhea, or cough
  • Sleeping excessively
  • A sudden change in feeding behavior (has to be repeatedly awakened to nurse or can't stay awake for feedings)
  • Inability to sustain sucking or nursing
  • Sweating during feedings
  • Change in muscle tone (decreased or floppy)
  • Decreased activity or movement
  • Change in color (i.e., pale, bluish or gray arms and legs)
  • Fever above 100.4° F (38.0° C) rectally (Caution: Do NOT give your baby any fever medicine before being seen)
  • Low temperature below 96.8° F (36.0° C) rectally
  • Unusual crying, moaning, grunting
  • You think your baby needs to be seen
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You have other questions or concerns
Parent Care at Home If
  • Your baby is feeding and sleeping normally and you don't think your child needs to be seen

  1. Reassurance: While your baby does not have any signs of illness at this time, careful observation during the early weeks of life is always the best approach.
  2. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Your baby starts to look or act sick in any way

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 1/19/2009

Last Revised: 12/19/2008

Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Online

Copyright 1994-2009 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

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