When to Take the Baby to the Doctor

There are six common ailments that may affect your newborn baby. These ailments include: fever, respiratory illnesses, ear infections, diarrhea & vomiting, constipation, and rashes. Below is information related to each ailment and indicators when you should take your child to the doctor.


  • Fever is the body’s normal response to infection and is designed to help fight the infection.
  • Body temperatures may fluctuate between 99º and 100º depending on activity and how warm the baby is dressed. These temperatures are considered normal when factoring in activity and dressing warm.
  • Temperatures reaching over 100º are recognized as a fever.
  • If fevers help fight infection, some people argue whether you should attempt to lower them or not.
  • Reducing the fever may be possible by giving your child a lukewarm bath or sponge bath. Acetaminophen (dosage obtained from pharmacist) may also help reduce the fever
  • Here are symptoms, if combined with fever, that warrant taking your child to the doctor:
    – Infant younger than two months old
    – Fever over 100.4ºF
    – Fever not responding to usual measures
    – Fever plus a rash
    – Fever for longer than two to three days

Respiratory Illnesses:

  • The common cold is most infants’ first illness.
  • Colds are caused by viruses caught from others (not by fresh air or cool weather).
  • A cold can take a week to ten days to run its course.
  • Here are symptoms, if combined with a cold, that warrant taking your child to the doctor:
    – Coughing to the point of vomiting
    – A deep chest cough
    – Labored or rapid breathing
    – Wheezing
    – Cold lasting longer than two weeks
    – Fever developing several days after a cold begins
    – Difficulty breathing

Ear Infections:

  • Ear infections are one of the most common reasons for doctor visits.
  • 66% of children have had an ear infection by the age of two.
  • Acetaminophen (baby dosage obtained from pharmacist) may provide relief and help the baby rest better.
  • Here are symptoms, if combined with ear infections, that warrant taking your child to the doctor:
    – Sleeplessness several days after cold begins
    – Repeated vomiting
    – Persistent fever / irritability after two days of treatment
    – Inconsolable crying
    – Redness or swelling behind the ear
    – History of ear infections
    – Pulling or tugging at ear

Diarrhea & Vomiting:

  • Most illnesses that result in vomiting or diarrhea are caused by viruses.
  • Bacteria, parasites, dietary changes or medications may also be responsible.
  • Recovery for babies may take several days.
  • The main concern is avoiding dehydration. Drink lots of liquids.
  • Here are symptoms, if combined with diarrhea or vomiting, that warrant taking your child to the doctor:
    – High fever. Unable to retain clear liquids
    – Signs of dehydration
    – Bloody stools
    – Bright yellow or green vomit
    – Diarrhea lasting longer than seven days


  • Formula-fed babies tend to have drier, less frequent stools than breastfed babies.
  • Even if your baby strains to pass a stool, he may not be constipated.
  • Curling the knees up against the baby’s chest may help.
  • Adding water or juice to the diet or fruits and vegetables for older babies can make stools less dry.
  • Never give an infant an enema or a laxative unless your doctor advises this.
  • Here are symptoms, if combined with constipation, that warrant taking your child to the doctor:
    – Infant feeding poorly or vomiting
    – Abdominal swelling
    – Infant in pain
    – Blood in the stool
    – Home remedies don’t help


  • Rashes in the diaper area are fairly common.
  • Keeping the diaper area clean and dry is the key to treatment.
  • Here are symptoms, if combined with rashes, that warrant taking your child to the doctor:
    – Fever
    – Child acts sick
    – Blisters or open sores
    – Rash doesn’t respond to simple measures in – few days
    – Painful rash

“Six Common Ailments and How to Handle them,” Lamaze Baby, Spring 2001.

Last updated: 12/2006