Common Infant Ailments
By Dana SullivanHow do you know whether the tiny irritation behind your infant's ear or his runny nose isn't a sign of something more serious? You don't; that's why it's always wise to call your pediatrician when your baby develops anything out of the ordinary. Thankfully, many infant health conditions are not serious and can be easily treated at home. Others may require a visit to your baby's pediatrician or the emergency room. Below you'll find a few common ailments to be aware of.
Blocked Tear Duct(s) Symptoms Excessive tearing in one or both eyes. Sometimes the eye(s) will have a thick yellow or green discharge, a sign of infection.
Treatment Your pediatrician can explain how to massage the inside corner of the eyelid, where it meets the nose (helps dissolve the membrane blocking the tear duct). He may also recommend warm compresses to help unblock the duct.
When to visit the doctor If you notice signs of infection (thick yellow or green discharge) your pediatrician will most likely prescribe antibiotic drops or ointment to clear it up. If the tear ducts remain blocked much past your baby's first birthday, she may need to have them surgically opened, which is an outpatient procedure.
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (also known as bronchiolitis) Symptoms A cold (runny nose, cough and, sometimes, a fever) that becomes more severe after a day or two. Your baby may dilate his nostrils when he breathes, or use the muscles around his rib cage and collarbone to help him get air into his lungs, or he may grunt and tighten his abdominal muscles. He may also make a wheezing sound when he breathes.
Treatment Your pediatrician will likely advise using a cool-mist humidifier, saline nasal drops, or a nasal aspirator to help relieve stuffiness of a cold. Currently non-prescription medicines to treat RSV are not available.
When to visit the doctor If your baby shows any of the signs of breathing difficulty described above; his fever lasts for more three days; he's younger than three months and has a fever; he has a dry mouth; he doesn't have tears when he cries; or if he takes less fluid than normal or urinates less than usual, contact your pediatrician immediately.
Seborrheic Dermatitis Symptoms Scaly, red patches on the scalp, underarms, behind the ears and in the folds of the neck. (When the rash appears on the head, it's usually called "Cradle Cap," a form of eczema. No one knows what causes the unsightly but painless rash in infants, but it may be related to hormonal changes that take place during the last few weeks of pregnancy.)
Treatment Wash your baby's hair with a mild shampoo, and then use a soft baby brush to gently remove the scales. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), using baby oil (or any other type of oil) is unnecessary and may even worsen the rash since oil can build up on the scalp. If frequent shampooing and brushing don't remove the scales, ask your baby's doctor about prescribing a medicated shampoo.
When to visit the doctor If the rash appears only on your baby's scalp, you can treat it yourself. If it affects other parts of his body, call your baby's doctor who may treat the affected spots with a cortisone cream or lotion.