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Common baby symptoms and what you can do to help

Trying to decipher your baby’s coos and cries can be frustrating. If only babies could tell you where they hurt! Here are some solutions for common problems. If any symptom lasts for more than a few days or appears to get worse, contact your doctor. Remember, in most cases it’s safe to give babies acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve pain or discomfort (check with your doctor about proper dosages), but never give children under age 18 aspirin.


If your baby is warm to the touch, grab a thermometer and take an accurate measurement. If the reading is higher than 98.6ºF, your infant is probably fighting off an infection.

What to do: If the thermometer reading is below 103ºF and there are no other symptoms, try giving your baby a pain reliever or a bath in lukewarm water. Make sure your child stays hydrated. For children less than three months old, fevers over 100ºF require a doctor’s attention; in children three to six months old, a call can be made if the fever reaches 101ºF. All children with a temperature reading higher than 103ºF or additional symptoms should be seen by a doctor.

Ear pain

If your baby girl has been irritable lately and is tugging or poking at her ears a lot, she might have an ear infection. Other symptoms include refusing to eat and trouble falling asleep.

What to do: If the earache is accompanied by a fever, cold or headache or you notice fluid coming out of the ear or swollen glands, call your doctor. Antibiotics may be needed. You can give children a pain reliever, as long as they don’t have a fever, but it is a good idea to check with your doctor first. Or, try holding a hot-water bottle wrapped in a towel to the ear. Keep your child’s head elevated to relieve the pressure (never use a pillow with an infant).


All infants cry, but if your baby is crying for more than an hour when he or she doesn’t need food, a clean diaper or to be held, your little one might have colic.

What to do: Some doctors believe colic may be caused by gas, but the verdict is still out on this condition that affects two- to five-week-olds and may last for up to three months. To help, lay your infant on his or her belly across your knees while rubbing the back. This can relieve the abdominal pressure. Soothe your child by cuddling or rocking him or her while singing or playing a song. If your baby is colicky for several hours at a stretch, talk to your pediatrician.


Although infants’ colds can’t be cured with chicken soup, there are other ways to ease a sniffling baby.

What to do: You can treat sick babies at home with lots of fluids and rest, as long as they’re six months and older. Before that, contact your doctor at the first sign of a cold. If a sore throat develops (babies with sore throats will cry when you try to feed them), make a doctor’s appointment. If a seal-like or whooping cough accompanies the cold or if your infant gets swollen glands or a fever, get prompt medical help.

Stool problems

Babies commonly suffer constipation or diarrhea, and although these conditions require attention they generally are not cause for worry.

What to do: Diarrheic infants over three months old can be given a commercial rehydrating solution if they have had a couple of episodes. Infants under three months should see a doctor right away. Constipated babies will pass hard, dry stools. If constipation is accompanied by vomiting or abdominal pain, the intestines may be blocked; get help. With either condition, contact your doctor if blood is present.