How To Tell When Your Baby Is Sick

Signs that your baby may be sick

Generally, if your newborn is active, feeding well and can be comforted when crying, small differences in activity level or crying are normal. But if your baby seems fussy, is crying more than usual, has low energy, is noticeably irritable and/or seems hot and feverish, you may want to see your pediatrician.

Fever

Fever is the body’s way of fighting infection, so while fever can be serious in newborns, fever is not necessarily an emergency in older children.

How to take your baby’s temperature

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, we recommend only taking your baby’s temperature rectally. Here’s how:

  • The normal range for a temperature taken rectally is 97.9°F-100.4°F
  • Using a digital thermometer, lay your baby on his/her back and bring the knees up over the abdomen
  • Make sure the thermometer is clean, then dip it in water-soluble jelly
  • Insert the thermometer in your baby’s rectum, about 1 inch
  • Wait for the thermometer to take the reading (usually indicated by a beep)
  • Clean the thermometer after each use with soap and water or rubbing alcohol

When to see your baby’s pediatrician

Contact your pediatrician right away if you notice any of the following signs:

  • rectal fever above 100.4 for babies younger than 3 months
  • rectal fever of 104 or higher for babies older than 3 months
  • fever lasting more than 48-72 hours
  • crying inconsolably
  • listless or limp
  • having convulsions (seizures)
  • swelling of the soft spot at the top of the head (fontanelle)
  • pain
  • purple splotches on the skin, or another type of rash
  • pale
  • flushed (red-faced)
  • problems breathing
  • refuses to breastfeed or drink from a bottle
  • has trouble swallowing
  • vomiting or diarrhea