When your baby gets a fever, congestion or tummy ache, follow these pediatrician-approved strategies

Fight Baby's Fever

You reach down to pick your fussy baby up from the crib. He’s hot, sweaty and miserable.

Your action plan:

  • Take his temperature with a rectal digital thermometer—they’re most accurate.
  • Call your pediatrician immediately if your newborn baby is under 3 months old and has a fever (see "Call the doctor if" below).
  • Give baby a tepid sponge bath to make him feel more comfortable.
  • Consult the pediatrician before giving medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Call the baby's doctor if:

  • Your newborn baby is younger than 3 months with a temperature of 100.4 degrees F or higher. Infections in babies this young can become serious quickly. If you can't reach the doctor, go to the emergency room.
  • Your 3-to-6-month-old has a fever of 101 degrees F or more, or an older baby has a fever of 103 degrees F or more.
  • Your baby is lethargic, unresponsive, refuses to eat, has a rash or is having difficulty breathing.
  • You see signs of dehydration: dry mouth, a sunken soft spot or significantly fewer wet diapers.
  • Your baby has a fever (febrile) seizure, which can include convulsions, unconsciousness and rigidity.
  • The fever lasts more than 24 hours.

Clear Up Baby's Congestion

It’s cold and flu season, and your baby’s nose is all stuffed up. He can’t sleep and doesn’t want to eat.

Your action plan:

  • Clear nasal congestion with a bulb syringe every few hours (no more than two or three times a day for babies under 2 months) or before feeding. A stuffy nose can make it hard for baby to nurse.
  • Place a cool-mist humidifier in baby's room to help keep nasal passages moistened.
  • Skip the cough and cold medications—they’re ineffective in children under 6.

Call the baby's doctor if:

  • Your newborn baby is younger than 3 months. His cold can quickly develop into a serious ailment, such as pneumonia.
  • Your baby appears to have difficulty breathing. Signs of breathing problems include blue lips or nails, nostrils widening with each breath, the skin above or below the ribs sucking in with each breath, or rapid breathing.

Turn Off Teething Pain

Your baby is drooling more than usual and gnawing on practically everything in sight.

Your action plan:

  • Give your baby firm rubber teething rings or a wet washcloth that's been in the freezer for 10 minutes.
  • Treat teething-associated fevers and crankiness with an age-appropriate dose of acetaminophen (ask your doctor or see medicine container, depending on age).

Call the baby's doctor if:

  • Baby’s fever is 101 degrees F or higher and he’s acting miserable, which suggests the fever is not due to teething.

Tame Baby's Tummy Aches

Spit-ups, gas pain and occasional constipation may be challenging, but they're part of baby's development.

Your action plan:

  • Keep your baby upright for 30 minutes after feeding and experiment with smaller amounts of breast milk or formula at a time to help prevent spit-ups.
  • Prevent gas bubbles and pain by burping your baby two or three times during a feeding, gently patting her between the shoulder blades until she burps. (If you bottle-feed, try bottles and nipples that are designed specifically to prevent gas.)
  • Offer two ounces of pear, apple or prune juice once or twice a day at the end of a feeding, if baby's bowel movements become hard, pebble-like and painful around the time you transition to solid foods.
  • Be clear on the difference between vomiting and spitting up. Vomiting is a more forceful expelling of the stomach’s contents and can be caused by bacteria or a virus. A spit-up flows more easily, often right after a burp.

Call the baby's doctor if:

  • Your baby shows signs of discomfort along with spitting up, doesn’t gain weight on schedule or shows signs of dehydration.
  • Your baby’s constipation is painful and isn’t relieved by fruit juice.
  • Your baby cries intermittently and abruptly and pulls her legs toward her stomach, which in rare cases may signal a type of bowel blockage. Babies with this problem may vomit and have dark, mucousy, bloody stools.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 01 Sep 2010

Last Modified: 20 Oct 2014