Newborn babies may fall ill from time to time, usually from a harmless infection that gets better after a few days. But occasionally, there are symptoms that may mean something more serious is happening.
When a baby is unwell, look for warning signs that may suggest serious illness. Some symptoms may be subtle, which is why it’s important to know when to seek medical help.
Newborn babies are exposed to infectious agents that may result in colds and other illnesses. These are a part of the baby’s development, which most can outgrow as they grow older.
Newborns are at higher risk of infections that can occur at any time during the first month. Parents and guardians should carefully observe for signs of illness, especially in their first seven days of life. Babies can get a blood infection (neonatal sepsis), which can be fatal.
It can be hard to tell when newborn babies are sick as they cannot verbalize their feelings, unlike adults. This makes it difficult to spot thy symptoms and distinguish if their behaviour is not normal.
One of the first signs of childhood illness is a change in behaviour. Although their activity level and appetite vary daily, a distinct change in these areas may indicate that they are not feeling well.
The warning signs below will help parents and guardians spot newborn illness and when to take necessary action.
5 Potential Signs Of Sickness In Newborn Babies
Fever is the temporary increase in the newborn’s body temperature in response to a viral infection. In most cases, the baby will need rest and fluids, but sometimes medications are needed.
Common respiratory illnesses such as colds, pneumonia, stomach bugs, and other viral diseases can cause fever. To check if there are changes in their body temperature, use a digital or glass rectal thermometer that is mercury free.
Newborn babies under three months with a temperature of over 38°C is a medical emergency. Take them to the emergency department immediately as fever is often hard to determine and other signs of illness are difficult to detect.
2. Poor Appetite
The normal signs of hunger in newborn babies are sucking fingers, crying, and making root motions. However, if the baby refuses to eat and misses several meals, it may be a sign of illness.
They may also have trouble feeding in bottles, do not seem hungry, are spitting up, or is losing weight.
3. Diarrhea And Vomiting
Diarrhea and vomiting could be signs of a viral or bacterial infection developing in the intestine, an airway obstruction, or other health problems. The pediatrician will usually order an exam of the baby’s stool to look for bacteria.
The loss of fluid through frequent poos and vomiting can cause dehydration in newborn babies, which can be dangerous.
Rashes are common in young babies due to infectious diseases or an allergic reaction to an object, person, or thing. Try to find out what triggers this reaction to provide the right treatment.
Most rashes are due to minor infections and are usually not serious. If there is an appearance of a purple rash that does not fade with pressure, talk to a doctor immediately.
5. Listlessness Or Lethargy
Illness in newborn babies may cause them to have little or no energy. They may appear tired or sluggish and are sleeping longer than usual. Parents may have difficulty waking them up for feedings and don’t respond to sounds and visual simulation as before.
These symptoms may develop slowly, which makes it difficult to notice the gradual change. Listlessness or lethargy may be a sign of infection and other health conditions.
If you notice any of these signs on your newborn, contact a doctor immediately.
While most newborn illnesses are harmless, do not disregard your instincts as a parent and seek medical help if you are worried.
Learn the A-Z signs of childhood illness in a first aid course to easily spot warning symptoms and know what to do in emergencies.
We also run childcare courses in Tasmania and other locations Australia-wide – please check our upcoming courses for availability.