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New Parents: When to Call the Doctor

Posted on May 13, 2014

Mom-with-crying-baby

New parents often marvel that such an adorable and precious bundle of joy has become part of their lives. But the responsibility for another human being – one who can only communicate by crying, pooping and sleeping – can be overwhelming. Especially if you think your baby might be sick.

“New parents should never hesitate to call their child’s doctor if they are concerned,” says Rebecca Fazilat, M.D., a pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “Doctors who care for children, such as pediatricians and family medicine doctors, expect a lot of calls because it takes experience for parents to learn how and when to respond to their child’s illness.”

While you are still learning to understand “baby language,” follow Dr. Fazilat’s guidelines on when you should seek medical help for your little one.

Call your doctor immediately for medical advice if your child of any age:

  • Is constantly crying, irritable, inconsolable and behaving differently than usual
  • Is having any difficulty swallowing and is drooling more than usual
  • Is difficult to arouse, confused or delirious
  • Has a stiff neck or headache and fever over 101.5 F
  • Has purple or red spots on the skin that are large or pinpoint in size and do not fade with pressure
  • Has difficulty breathing (unless it is due to a stuffy nose)

Call your doctor immediately if your baby younger than 2 months of age:

  • Has a fever of 100.4 F rectally
  • Is vomiting (not spitting up)
  • Is very irritable, lethargic or is skipping feedings
  • Has infected-looking skin around the umbilical stump (red and warm to the touch or has a bad odor)

Call you doctor during regular office hours if your child:

  • Has a fever higher than 101.5 F, especially if the child is younger than 2 years old
  • Is urinating less than three times a day
  • Is unable to keep any fluids down and is no longer making tears
  • Is unusually tired and lethargic
  • Has a cold and is constantly crying, irritable and difficult to console

Go to the nearest emergency room, or call 911, if your child:

  • Stops breathing. Call 911 and begin CPR immediately.
  • Loses consciousness at any time
  • Experiences a seizure (unless the child has a known seizure disorder)
  • Has severe bleeding that does not stop or slow down after five minutes of direct pressure
  • Suffers a head injury that causes loss of consciousness or exposes or deforms the skull
  • Has difficulty breathing or gasping aspirations
  • Exhibits sudden changes in the eyes (like crossed eyes, droopy eyelids or difficulty using the eyes)
  • Suffers an injury that causes paralysis or profound weakness in any part of the body

Fazilat_Rebecca300  4webRebecca Fazilat, M.D., is a board-certified pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s West Valley Center in San Jose.