Keeping Your Baby Healthy: How to Tell If Your Baby is Sick

Samantha Griffith

Written by Samantha Griffith

sick baby

Signs and Symptoms on How to Tell if Your Baby is Sick

Mothers are attuned to their babies and can quickly notice when something is not right. As a new mom, you must know what to look for and have the proper knowledge of how to tell if your baby is sick

Being a new parent is indeed challenging, and it is even more overwhelming when you have an infant who is not feeling well. You learn how to decipher your baby’s cries and behavior and tell it apart from when your baby is just fussy, tired, or when they are ill.

Most doctors agree that a high temperature or having a fever is one of the most common indicators of illness. But there are other signs and symptoms that you should look out for. 

What are the Signs and Symptoms of an Unwell Child?

How often a baby catches a newborn cold or newborn coughing varies. Their immune system is still in the developing stage; thus, they need all the extra care that you can give. Babies exposed to various environments are susceptible to more germs and are prone to baby cold and even ear infection.

Even with regular check ups and monitoring their health or getting medical advice from a health specialist, a child can still catch the common cold. Look out for the following conditions and know when to take your child  to the doctor.

Some key points:

  • Fever is a sign that your baby is fighting an infection
  • Becoming more sleepy or fussy are changes in your baby’s behavior that indicates illness
  • Fever is usually the only sign of a severe infection in infants one to three months; thus, all babies with fever at this age should be brought to a health care expert right away. 

Likewise, changes in your child’s behavior signal that they are unwell. If they cry more often or are always fussy, your child may be ill. During this time, a long range baby monitor will also help you monitor your infant’s condition even when you are not by their side.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of an Unwell Child?

Newborn and infants age less than three months often does not have any other signs or symptoms of illness. Fever or a temperature that is slightly above their normal range is the first and only sign of infection. Thus, if your offspring is at this stage, and they have a fever, are vomiting, and presents with a cough or a cold, bring them to a health expert right away. 

Behavior Changes

Changes in child’s behavior is also a sign that they are not feeling well. When they are unwell, babies often cry more often or have less activity level. Generally, if your baby is feeding well, active when awake, or is easily comforted when they cry, small differences in their crying or feeding are normal.

But if he becomes fussy or very sleepy, it is time to take them to the doctor. Decreased activity levels, fussiness, and crying are signs that an illness is present. 

Decreased Energy Levels

Babies who are unwell are usually sleepy, listless, and sleep longer than usual. They have no energy and become difficult to wake for feedings. When awake, ill babies may feel tired and sluggish. They may not be up for play and do not pay attention to audio and visual stimulation. A kid’s energy level decreases gradually when they are not feeling well, and most parents do not recognize it quickly.

Decrease energy in babies may suggest that they have common infections such as cold in babies, cough, difficulty breathing or severe illnesses like influenza. The decline in their activity level may be due to a heart condition or blood diseases. Various other diseases may cause decrease energy in babies. Therefore, if your baby is acting listless or lethargic, have them checked by your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. 


Babies do not have any other means of communicating than to cry. Over time, moms will identify that their babies cry differently according to their needs. Babies have a particular way of crying when they are sleepy, hungry, want a cuddle, or needs a diaper change. In most cases, parents can console the kid and stop their crying after providing what they need. In case he starts crying inconsolably, they may have a condition called colic. It can start a few weeks after birth and last until they are around three or four months.

On the other hand, a kid who becomes fretful and fussy with long periods of crying may be in pain or ill. Fussiness may also be a sign that your baby has abdominal pain, gas, earache, or an infection. If your baby cannot be consoled and remain fussy and fretful despite all your efforts, brings them to your doctor for a check-up. 

How can I help my Sick Newborn?

An ill kid is less likely to be a happy one. They will be fussy and moody during their illness. Be sure to follow your doctor’s prescription and treatment instructions to help your kid  get better faster. Beyond medications, there are other things that you can do as parents to soothe an ill kid.  

Plenty of Fluids

Besides cold medicine for babies, make sure that they are getting plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration. Ideally, you can breastfeed them more often than usual to keep them hydrated and comforted. During their sickness, babies may not feed as often as they usually do, thus give them small but frequent feedings. For babies older than six months, you can give them two to four ounces of water to help hydrate them. Breast milk is best for babies under six months of age. 

Plenty of Rest

Changes in child’s behavior is also a sign that they are not feeling well. When they are unwell, babies often cry more often or have less activity level. Generally, if your baby is feeding well, active when awake, or is easily comforted when they cry, small differences in their crying or feeding are normal.

But if he becomes fussy or very sleepy, it is time to take them to the doctor. Decreased activity levels, fussiness, and crying are signs that an illness is present. 

Decreased Energy Levels

Allow your baby to have plenty of sleep and rest to soothe them and help them heal from cough, cold, vomiting or difficulty breathing. You may put them to bed earlier than usual or encourage naps. Avoid overstimulating the kid and risk potential exposure to others. 

Nose Drops

For nasal congestion, you can use over-the-counter saline drops to thin mucus and relieve congestion. Ask your pediatrician for recommendations on which products are safe to use when the kid has the common cold or experience trouble breathing. 

Nasal Aspirator

After applying nose drops for the common cold, you may use nasal syringe or aspirators to remove mucus off your kid’s nose. Do this two to three times a day to help them breathe more easily. 


Having a cold-mist humidifier in your kid’s room will also help keep the air moist and relieve their congestion. Make sure to follow the product instruction and change filters and water often to keep the air free from mold and bacteria. 

Warm Bath

A warm bath will soothe your baby’s pain and aches. The steam may also help clear nasal congestion. After bathing them, dry your baby thoroughly to prevent chills. 

Lots of TLC

The best way to soothe the  child is to give them lots of tender, loving care, and attention. Hold them to comfort them and engage in quiet play. You may also give a massage, sing, or read softly to them. They may want to nurse more, thus offer your breast often to reassure and comfort them. When ill, babies want to snuggle, so; you may want to use a sling to keep them close to you. Reassure and talk to them always, they may not understand your words, but your voice is enough to soothe them.

Is My Baby Teething or Sick?

Determining whether your baby is ill, has the common cold, or just teething is something that always bothers parents. There are four ways to help you tell the difference between an unwell  and a teething baby.

Low-grade Fever

When a baby is teething, a low-grade fever that doesn’t persist is normal. Your baby’s body temperature will be slightly elevated when they have a tooth that’s about to erupt, so you don’t have to worry. But if the fever is higher than 100.6 degrees F, or if the fever persists, it’s time to take your baby to the doctor.

Drooling, runny nose and loss of appetite

Teething is often accompanied by symptoms like drooling, runny nose, and loss of appetite. You may notice your baby feeling unwell and showing these signs when their first tooth starts showing up between four and seven months. Your baby may drool excessively and may not be interested in eating. They may feel pain when their gums are sore. Likewise, your baby may also have a runny nose and be on the cranky side. Peek inside their mouth if they have these symptoms. If you see swollen gums, then a tooth is about to come out. 

Diarrhea and Vomiting

There are symptoms of teething that can also indicate some bug or illness. If your baby has diarrhea or vomiting, they may be ill with something. Keep your baby hydrated, and if symptoms persist more than a day, take the  baby to the doctor.   

Acetaminophen or ibuprofen should ease teething pain.

Talk to your pediatrician on the proper dose of medicine to give your baby in case of teething discomfort. If it does not seem to help, your baby is likely fighting a virus that causes their discomfort.

Teething and sickness symptoms in babies are not exclusive. If your little one has more than the usual symptoms, it is best to call your doctor for a consultation. If it is teething, the signs and discomfort will fade in a couple of days. Your baby will go back to their usual cheerful self. Meanwhile, you may offer a cold teether or wet washcloth to relieve their gum pain. And don’t forget to give them lots of cuddles. 

Taking Your Baby's Temperature

Having a thermometer for kids is a staple in any home. Babies and kids get a fever now and then; thus, it is essential to have the right tool to get the correct reading. While a fever often causes no harm, a high temperature sometimes indicates that you need to take your baby to the doctor.

There are several types of thermometer that you have to keep at home. Here are some of the common ones and how you can safely and accurately take your child’s temperature.

Digital Thermometer

These types of thermometers can give the quickest and most accurate readings. They are the ones that doctors recommend. You can get them in various shapes and sizes and are available at most supermarkets or drugstores. Read instructions on what the tool is designed for and how it works to give you a reading. You can find digital thermometers designed for taking temperatures through the following methods:

  • Rectal – ideal and the most accurate way of taking temperatures for children under the age of three
  • Oral – best for children four to five years of age
  • Axillary – this is not very accurate, but it is suitable for a first check

Other types of thermometers

Apart from digital thermometers, two other types are ideal for infants and toddlers. Temporal Artery thermometer measures the heat waves on the side of the forehead. It can be used for infants three months or older. Similarly, the electronic ear (tympanic) thermometer measures the heat waves from the eardrum. It is used for babies six months and older.

As a new parent, it is essential to know this necessary information and know-how to tell if your baby is sick. Although elevated body temperature is normal, you have to be vigilant when you have a newborn and is showing signs of discomfort. More so, it is okay to call your doctor if you notice that something is not right with your little one. 

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