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When to Call the Pediatrician

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Stomach Flu and Other Intestinal Issues

Intestinal issues are a common cause of vomiting, diarrhea, and even cough and cold symptoms in kids. Usually caused by a virus, intestinal problems can happen no matter what age your baby is.

When should you call a pediatrician? Scott Cohen, MD, attending physician at Cedars Sinai Medical Center and author of Eat, Sleep, Poop: A Complete Common Sense Guide to Your Baby's First Year, recommends calling when there is:

  • Blood in your child's stool or vomit
  • Abdominal pain located in one spot
  • A fever for more than three days
  • If your child has diarrhea and pees fewer than three times in 24 hours

Dehydration, Diarrhea, and Vomiting

Dehydration can easily be caused by vomiting and diarrhea, especially in babies, so always call your pediatrician if you think your child is dehydrated, says Tolcher. Signs of dehydration include:

  • Dry lips
  • Lack of tears when baby cries
  • Wetting fewer diapers than normal
  • Going six hours or more with a dry diaper
  • Lethargy or weakness

Mild diarrhea warrants a call if it lasts more than ten days. Diarrhea is considered severe and worthy of a call to the doctor when:

  • There are more than eight stools a day
  • Stool has blood or mucus

Vomiting is a pretty common part of childhood, but call your doctor if:

  • Vomiting lasts more than 24 hours
  • An infant throws up more than 8 or 10 times
  • An older child throws up 10 or 20 times
  • The vomiting seems unusually severe

"Again, if any illness ... is associated with a weak, lethargic, or dehydrated child, you should always call sooner," Tolcher tells WebMD.

Constipation

It's all about the poop, writes pediatrician Tanya Altmann, MD, in her book Mommy Calls: Dr. Tanya Answers Parents' Top 101 Questions About Babies and Toddlers, who says questions about constipation are some of the most common a pediatricians hear.

While newborns should poop daily, older babies can have a wide range of normal poop behavior. Call your doctor about constipation if your baby:

  • Is newborn (up to 4 weeks old) and hasn't pooped every day
  • Is more than 4 weeks old and has not pooped in a week
  • Has a distended or swollen belly
  • Starts vomiting
  • Has a fever
  • Is lethargic
  • Uninterested in feeding

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