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Signs & Symptoms of Illness

Infants show that they are ill in many ways. Some indicators to watch for:

  • Your baby refuses feedings or eats less than usual
  • Vomiting
  • Frequent watery stools
  • Your infant passes small amounts of dark urine
  • Unusual crying or irritability - not responding to the usual comfort measures
  • Changes in sleeping habits:
    • your infant is unable to sleep, although he or she is exhausted
    • he or she exhibits a decreased activity level by sleeping more often
    • your infant is difficult to wake or appears weak
    • Respiratory changes such as breathing faster or difficulty breathing
    • Pale or mottled skin color

Temperature Taking

Always take your infant's temperature before calling your pediatrician. We recommend taking rectal temperatures on small infants, but please check with your pediatrician for their preference. Keep in mind that when they are ill, small babies may actually have a lower than normal temperature. Report temperatures over 100.3°F to your pediatrician.

Body temperature can be affected by the environmental temperature, clothing and activities such as crying. Try to take your infant's temperature while he or she is calm to get an accurate reading.


Any significant decrease in your infant's urinary output may indicate dehydration. If the baby is producing small amounts of concentrated (dark) urine, notify your doctor immediately because infants become dehydrated quickly.

Be ready to report:

  • number of wet diapers in 24-hour period
  • number and consistency of stools
  • amount of fluid taken in 24 hours
  • amount vomited
  • presence of fever

If diarrhea is frequent, or if there are watery stools or stools with a water ring around them, this may be a symptom of illness or food intolerance. Infants get dehydrated quickly when they have frequent watery stools, so contact your baby’s doctor to discuss appropriate methods of fluid replacement.

Bulb Syringe

A bulb syringe may be used to clear your infant's nose or mouth of mucus or formula. To use, squeeze the bulb until it collapses. Place in one nostril, then release quickly. Repeat as necessary. When using the syringe, be sure to clean it daily using hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly.

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