Raising a child is full of surprises and is one of the most difficult jobs in the world.
While parenthood is both wonderful and awful at the same time, all parents need to be prepared to handle some common health problems in babies.
As each child is unique and their immune systems develop individually, the type and severity of health issues can vary from one child to another.
Taking care of a sick child is hard, as children become needy and require comforting from the moment they become sick. Also, it can be emotionally challenging for parents, as no mother or father wants to see their baby sick and experiencing discomfort or pain.
Here are the top 10 common health issues in babies and how to deal with them.
If your newborn is suddenly having crying bouts that last for a few hours and occur at least 3 or 4 times a week, your baby is likely having colic pain.
This is a very common health issue in newborn babies, and those who have it are often referred to as colicky. It usually starts in the second week of life and lasts until about 3 months of age. About 20 to 25 percent of babies suffer from colic, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
The exact cause of colic is unknown, but many health experts believe it can be due to trapped air in the abdominal cavity that causes pain and discomfort.
Another common problem in babies is gastroesophageal reflux (GER), also referred to as infant reflux.
When suffering from GER, the stomach contents come back up into the esophagus, causing the baby to spit up liquid that is mostly made of saliva and stomach acid.
About half of all infants spit up many times a day in the first 3 months of their lives, according to the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The problem resolves as the infant reaches 12 to 14 months of age.
Some factors that can put your baby at a higher risk for GER include premature birth, lying flat most of the time and consuming only a liquid diet.
Teething pain can turn even the most relaxed baby into a finicky baby.
Babies experience teething problems as soon as their first set of teeth start emerging through the gums. Teething usually begins between 6 and 8 months of age, and it can take up to 2 years for all the teeth to come through.
Apart from pain, babies may have other symptoms like excessive drooling, fussiness, a tendency to bite on things, sleeplessness, a low fever, decreased appetite and pulling their ears or rubbing their chin or cheeks.
Diaper rash is another common problem that parents have to deal with.
Diaper rash is characterized by inflamed skin and a rash on the upper thighs, buttocks and genital area. The main cause is prolonged exposure to a dirty diaper, which can be either moist with urine or soiled with stool.
This type of rash can cause a lot of discomfort and if not treated timely, it can lead to a yeast or bacterial infection.
As babies lie down most of the time, they often suffer from abdominal gas. When gas does not pass easily, it causes pain and intense crying.
Toddlers can also develop gas due to use of antibiotic medications, lactose intolerance, eating gas-forming foods, not chewing their food thoroughly, swallowing large amounts of air and not drinking enough water.
Not just adults, even small babies suffer from constipation.
A baby is likely constipated if their bowel movements are less frequent than usual. Also, they may have to strain more than usual to pass stools. Other signs include blood in the stools, a firm tummy and refusing to eat.
Constipation in babies can occur due to the introduction of new solid food, ingredients used in baby formula, lack of activity and dehydration.
A fever is a common sign of illness and a normal response of a child’s immune system to a virus or bacterial infection.
In a healthy baby, a fever can last for about 3 to 5 days under normal circumstances.
The most common cause of a fever in babies is a viral infection. Other causes include teething, a change in environment and so on.
A mild fever is not a matter of concern, but if the temperature is consistently high, see a doctor immediately.
The common cold is the most common cause of illness in children. In fact, within the first year of life, most babies have up to seven colds.
It is a type of viral infection that starts with nasal congestion and a runny nose. Other signs and symptoms of a common cold in babies are a mild fever, sneezing, coughing, loss of appetite, irritability, difficulty sleeping and refusing to nurse or take a bottle due to nasal congestion.
Babies are very susceptible to the common cold due to their weak immunity. The problem is common in babies who are often around other older children or spend time in child care centers.
Vomiting and diarrhea are common in young babies. Also known as a stomach or tummy bug, the main cause of this problem is gastroenteritis.
Gastroenteritis is an infection of the gut usually caused by a virus or bacteria, which also causes diarrhea.
Other causes include food allergies or milk intolerance, gastroesophageal reflux, swallowing too much milk or liquid because the hole in the bottle teat is too big or accidentally swallowing something poisonous.
It is important to treat vomiting and diarrhea quickly or your baby can become dehydrated, which can be dangerous, particularly in very young infants.
In most cases, you can treat your child’s vomiting and diarrhea safely at home.
Occasional breathing problems in babies are also common.
Breathing difficulty in babies can occur due to the common cold, asthma or respiratory infections like croup, bronchitis and pneumonia.
Common symptoms related to breathing difficulties or the underlying cause include a hoarse voice, rapid breathing, wheezing, mild coughing, a mild fever, and nasal and chest congestion.
Note: Never ignore very sudden breathing difficulties in babies, as it can occur due to serious health issues, such as epiglottitis and choking.
Answered by Dr. Marion Mass, MD (Pediatrician)
Some of the illnesses which a baby might suffer from are:
Babies are more susceptible to such illnesses because they have immature immune systems. That is why a fever in an infant, especially under 8 weeks must ALWAYS be taken seriously!
Yes, especially to lung infections like RSV (as mentioned above). Given the fragile state of their overall health, and their under-developed immune systems, premature babies tolerate any and every illness less well than a full-term child.
Lactose intolerance itself manifests mainly as diarrhea. Milk intolerance in babies may manifest as reflux or blood in the stools.
Any child with suspected gastroparesis should see a pediatric GI physician. Gastroparesis has many causes, so a physician would have to get to the bottom of what is causing the gastroparesis.
There are so many reasons one needs to see a pediatrician. Let’s start with infants, and let me bring up 2 reasons that are more in the line of prevention:
Prematurity and viral Upper Respiratory Infections are the primary causes of respiratory distress faced by infants.
In the absence of the symptoms of fever, vomiting, and diarrhea, it’s hard to tell what may be the reason for your baby’s discomfort. The first step towards addressing a probable stomach ache is to rule out the other common culprits that usually make babies cry, such as colic, hunger, or many other reasons.
When babies inhale excess air, it gets stuck in their nascent digestive systems and triggers gas pains which causes them to cry more and the cycle is set. If the baby seems unusually fussy after nursing or eating, you might want to keep a food diary, to see if certain foods (cow’s milk products and cruciferous veggies come to mind) are causing gas or reflux.
About Dr. Marion Mass, MD: Dr. Mass attended Penn State University, Duke Medical School and did her training in pediatrics at Northwestern’s Robert Lurie Children’s Hospital. She has worked in the hospital, ER, nursery, delivery room, outpatient practice, and urgent care settings.
Dr. Mass is the winner of the 2018 R William Alexander Award, recognized by her Pennsylvania peers as contributing heavily to political advocacy in healthcare, and in addition, is a Pa Medical Society delegate. She founded Practicing Physicians of America of Chicago with Dr. Westby Fisher, M.D.
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