When to take your newborn to the doctor
Rather be safe than sorry
As you adjust to your new role as parent to your tiny human, it’s absolutely normal to be on hyper-alert, with every little twinge leaving you concerned for your baby’s health.
WHEN TO WORRY
But when you’re still learning what’s normal and what there is to be truly concerned about, it can get a little confusing. We’re going to make it easier for you; with this top five list of reasons to take your newborn to the doctor or emergency room.
1 FEVER For babies younger than three months, fevers need urgent attention. Any temperature that’s above or below the normal reading for a newborn child should get immediate medical attention. While a normal temperature for humans fluctuates between 36 and 37 degrees, any temperature above 37.5 degrees is considered a fever. For newborn babies and infants under three months of age, this is often indicative of a bacterial rather than a viral infection, according to specialist paediatrician Dr Nelandra Chetty. Dr Chetty explains: “Newborn babies have a developing immune system, and are therefore prone to infections. If a baby under three months of age has a fever, it needs urgent attention, as this can often be caused by a bacterial infection, like septicemia, meningitis or pneumonia.”
2 WHEEZING OR BATTLING TO BREATHE
When your baby starts to wheeze, or if they’re battling to breathe, your adrenalin will probably kick in, prompting you to seek medical attention very quickly. Act on it, because rapid breathing or wheezing can be a sign of pneumonia or an obstruction in their airway. If it seems to have started very quickly, it could also be a sign of your baby having drawn milk into their lungs. Either way, let your natural instincts guide you – directly to the emergency room.
3 VOMITING OR BLOOD IN THEIR NAPPIES
While it’s common for newborn babies to “spit up” parts of their feeds during the first few weeks, persistent vomiting is something to be concerned about. Telling the difference between posseting and outright vomiting is quite simple – when your baby is vomiting, they’ll bring up all or most of their milk. With posseting, it’s just a little bit. While a bout of vomiting with no other symptoms may just be a sign of a developing tummy, this should subside within six to twenty-four hours. If it has not subsided, and you’ve done your best to keep your baby hydrated, it’s time to get to the doctor. Dehydration is a common consequence of vomiting, and that’s a serious problem. Most often, persistent vomiting can be a sign of infection or a gut obstruction. And if you’re more concerned about what’s erupting from the bottom end of your baby, here’s what to look out for, and why: Blood in the urine – a consistently pink-stained nappy may be a sign of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Blood in the stool – if you notice streaks of blood in your baby’s soiled nappy, it could be a sign of an intestinal infection or of a cow milk protein allergy.
4 YOUR BABY REFUSES TO EAT
A newborn baby that refuses to drink can be most distressing for parents. But, don’t be alarmed if it happens once – be alarmed if it’s happened two or three times in a row. If your baby has refused the breast or bottle and has, as a result, skipped quite a few feeds, it’s time to head to the doctor, as this can be a sign of an underlying infection.
5 SEVERE RASH
It’s common for babies to undergo one or many bouts of nappy or heat rash. Technically known as irritant dermatitis, nappy rash is uncomfortable for your baby, but can easily be fixed with regular nappy changes, proper washing and drying and the application of water-repellent zinc cream or petroleum jelly. It’s also a good idea to let your baby spend some time nappyfree, as this can help to soothe and heal the nappy rash more quickly. But rashes that are most definitely not nappy rash, or that cover other parts of their body, should raise the alarm bells. As Dr Chetty outlines, “a blistering rash that looks like a burn could point to a staphylococcal bacterial infection.” Also known as “scalded skin syndrome” (SSS) or staph infection, it’s most often accompanied by a fever, and it should be immediately attended to, as left untreated, could lead to staphylococcus bacteria entering your baby’s bloodstream. A rash that suddenly appears after your baby has fed can also be a ticket to the doctor’s rooms as this may indicate a food-related allergic reaction. YB