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First Year

Infant Health

Infant illness and when to call a doctor

You may wonder how you will know if your baby is sick and when to call the doctor.You know your baby best. Over time you will gain confidence in recognizing illness in your baby.

Babies can become very sick very quickly. With some careful observations of any change in your baby's behaviour and routine you will be able to provide the doctor with useful information to help assess your baby.

Take your baby to see your doctor if your baby has one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Is less than 6 months old and has a temperature higher than 37.3°C (taken in the armpit)
  • Diarrhea, known as frequent, watery, liquid stools within a short period (6-8 hours of time); may be green and foul-smelling
  • Vomiting all or most of his feedings (emptying the stomach, not spitting up)
  • Signs of dehydration, such as loss of tears or saliva, sunken eyes, decreased wet diapers, sunken fontanels (soft spots)
  • Excessive crying or irritability beyond your baby’s usual fussiness
  • Difficulty waking up or is lethargic (less active than usual)
  • Changes in breathing pattern or persistent cough
  • Refusing more than one feeding

When Symptoms Appear

The doctor may ask when the symptoms first appeared, what seems to decrease them, or make them worse and whether any medications or home remedies have been tried. You should also tell the doctor about recent injuries if any (e.g., falls), exposures to illness (e.g., chicken pox) and about any existing medical conditions your baby has (e.g., asthma).

Observe your baby

Change in behaviour & routine Remember that your baby may show only a few of these signs when sick.
Change in sleep Drowsy, wakeful, trouble falling or staying asleep
Change in cry Sound, intensity, frequency
Change in appetite Refusing breast, bottle, solids; decreased amounts
Change in activity From playful and responsive to irritable or lethargic

Listen to your instincts. You know your baby best.

Call your family doctor when your baby is sick. It will be up to your doctor to see your baby and diagnose the problem.

If your baby is ill, and your doctor is not available, seek medical care at your nearest hospital Emergency.

Have a specific question?

Region of Peel – Public Health
Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Caledon residents call free of charge at 905-584-2216
to speak with a Public Health Nurse

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Revised: Friday February 17 2023

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