Signs of and treatments for routine ailments suffered by newborns and babies, infant to 2 years of age.
KATY MAGAZINE | April 2018
By Sara G. Stephens
Even the healthiest of babies can come down with a case of some ailment that makes them uncomfortable and makes their parents miserable. The frustration comes from seeing their child so unhappy and is compounded by the helplessness of not knowing what’s causing the problem, much less how to treat it.
Here we present the most common baby illnesses, tell you what signs to watch for, and describe the treatments—including what you can expect when visiting the pediatrician to what you might try at home to alleviate your baby’s discomfort.
We asked some Katy moms for some tried and true tricks they’ve put to use—some passed down from Grandma, some the product of trial and error, and others just good ol’ common sense.
Signs: excessive, inconsolable crying, typically louder and higher-pitched than what the parent associates with cries of hunger or tiredness, and usually occurring in the late afternoon or evening. These crying episodes end as suddenly as they start.
What to do: First, schedule a visit to the doctor so he/she can rule out more menacing causes of your baby’s crying. It could be the result of food allergies or an infection that needs attention.
Advice from Katy moms: “My dad was an old school doctor, which meant he practiced medicine with some of what his Momma taught him. He said, ‘A colicky baby is a hungry baby.’ After two weeks of my son screaming because of my following my pediatrician’s advice, I added a pinch of rice cereal, and instantly my son stopped. He never had colic again.” –Caroline S.
“I’ve used gripe water a lot. Never heard of it until this baby. It really seems to help too.” –Laura H.
2. Ear Aches
Signs: Episodes of crying or screaming that last less than half an hour, with signs of pain increasing when the baby is lying down; head shaking; fever; ear tugging/rubbing; decreased appetite if the infection has traveled down to the jaw, making sucking painful; ear may be red from the pain, especially if an infection is present.
Causes: can be the result of either an infection or pressure from sinus congestion
what to do: Some infants find it soothing to breastfeed or suckle a pacifier more when they have an earache. If you see any sign of discharge combined with other signs of an earache take your baby to the doctor.
Advice from Katy moms:
“My grandmother would warm about a teaspoon of mineral oil and pour it into my ear. Weird for sure. And she used a blow dryer to “dry out” swimmer’s ear.” –Hilary G.
“Swimmers Ear used on a regular basis after baths can help prevent ear infections.”—Maria P.
3. Diaper Rash Signs: Redness over the diaper area, including around the genitals, buttocks, and thighs; increased discomfort, especially at diaper-changing time; tight, papery skin or skin that is shiny and bright red; a strong smell of ammonia; in boys, an inflamed penis.
Causes: urine and stool irritation, antibiotics, laundry detergents, or food intolerance
What to do: You can go a long way toward preventing diaper rash by changing baby’s diaper frequently. Allow your infant to go as much time as possible without a diaper, too. A thin layer of ointment can provide a protective barrier to baby’s clean bottom—apply some before putting on a clean diaper. For rashes that are unusually bright red, are spotty, are oozing pus, or have spread up the abdomen or down to the thighs, see your pediatrician.
Advice from Katy moms: “Chamomile tea for heat rash or diaper rash stops the itching.” –Maria P.
“Coconut oil on the bottom for mild diaper rash” –Jennifer L.
Signs: infrequent bowel movements; straining to use the bathroom; hard, clay-like stools; blood in stool; taut belly; refusing to eat
Causes: Babies who are exclusively breastfed experience fewer instances of constipation. If your breastfed baby is constipated, consider it may be caused by something you are eating. If your baby is bottle-fed, he/she may be reacting to an ingredient in the formula. Some solid foods cause constipation.
What to do: For breast-fed babies, you can try adjusting your diet. If your baby is bottle-fed, try a different type of formula until the constipation clears. In either case, baby may be sensitive to certain ingredients. If your baby is eating solid foods, consider adding a few high-fiber foods like broccoli, pears, prunes, peaches, or skinless apples. Replace refined cereal with cooked grains and bran cereals. Increase fluid intake for baby—water or milk will keep him/her hydrated; prune or pear juice for older babies (over 6 months) can facilitate colon contractions. Keep your baby moving to help speed up digestion. For babies who aren’t yet walking, try moving his/her legs in a bicycle-pedaling motion.
Advice from Katy moms: “We’ve been using fennel and marjoram on the bottoms of my newborn’s feet to help with gas and constipation. He responds well to it.” – Laura H.
“I added a little Dark Karo syrup to her bottle. Worked great.” –Theresa B.
“Oatmeal water for constipation. You let it sit in water all night and use that water if you are using formula or just little sips. That was my homeopathic doctor’s advice for my babies back then. It worked like a charm. —Maria V.
Signs: an increase in frequency of one-and-a-half or two times your child’s normal pattern; stools that are looser, watery, mucusy, green, or runnier than unusual
Causes: intestinal infections, most of which are not serious and will resolve themselves (Rotavirus, bacteria, parasites); food tolerance or sensitivity (including lactose intolerance or reaction to sugar/chemical additives); food allergies (including milk proteins)
What to do: Generally, the first step to solving the diarrhea is to determine the cause. Some foods will irritate the diarrhea and should be eliminated (diary, cow’s milk-based formula, apple juice, pear juice, and cherry juice). Monitor the severity of dehydration by weighing your baby—a dramatic or rapid weight loss might suggest severe dehydration. In this case, consult your doctor immediately.
Advice from Katy moms: “Rice water for constipation.” [Like Maria’s use of oatmeal water for constipation, let the rice sit in water all night and use that water if you are using formula or just administering little sips.]—Maria V.
Signs: congested or runny nose; nasal discharge that may be clear at first but might thicken and turn yellow or green; fever; sneezing; coughing; decreased appetite; irritability; difficulty sleeping; trouble nursing or taking a bottle due to nasal congestion
Causes: a viral infection of baby's nose and throat
What to do: For babies, treating a cold is all about easing their symptoms. Provide lots of fluids, keep the air moist, and help baby keep his/her nasal passages open. If your infant if very young, see your pediatrician at the onset of the cold to reduce the development of croup and pneumonia.
Advice from Katy moms: “We use thieves and eucalyptus for colds on the base of our feet and chests when we have colds.” – Laura H.
“For coughs, spread some Lavender Night Time Vicks on their feet and put on socks.” —Theresa B.
“For clogged noses, homemade saline solution (my pediatrician said it was more sanitary).”—Jennifer L.
Signs: trouble breathing; cough producing yellow, green, or gray mucus; unusually upset or inactive; refuses to breastfeed or bottle-feed; signs of dehydration (lack of tears when crying, little or no urine in the diaper for 6 hours, and cool, dry skin).
Causes: Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common, and very contagious, virus that infects the respiratory tract of most children before their second birthdays.
What to do: Call your baby’s doctor if you notice any of the above symptoms, especially if baby is very tired, breathes rapidly, or has a blue tint to his/her lips or fingernails.
Advice from Katy moms: “A warm towel on the chest helps with RSV. That’s what the pulmonologist did for our daughter in the hospital.” –Caroline S.
8. Cradle Cap
Signs to watch for: common in newborn babies; looks like dandruff or patches of waxy-yellowish flakes or scales on your newborn's scalp; may also appear on baby’s eyebrows, eyelids, ears, armpits or other creases.
Causes: hormones passed from mom to baby; antifungal treatments; antibiotics given to mom during pregnancy; overstimulation of baby’s oil glands; extreme weather; certain baby lotions with alcohol; irregular skin cleaning.
What to do: Cradle cap is harmless and clears up on its own by the time your baby is twelve months old. You can help loosen the scales by Gently brushing your baby's scalp with a soft brush and shampooing once daily with a mild baby shampoo.
Advice from Katy moms: “I found that applying baby oil or mineral oil helped.” –Monica Alcorn
9. Baby Acne
Signs: spots that look like acne on baby’s skin
Causes: over-active oil glands
What to do: Scrubbing baby’s skin will cause the oil glands to produce more oil and make the acne worse. Instead use a soft sponge or terry washcloth to wipe baby.
Advice from Katy moms: “I would mix a teaspoon of lemon juice and a teaspoon of honey, dip a cotton swab in the solution, and apply to my baby’s skin. I left it on for half an hour, then washed it away with warm water and gently toweled him dry with a gently cleaned towel.”—Karrie A.