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When to Call the Pediatrician

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Coughs, Colds and Other Respiratory Problems

Coughs are an expected part of having a cold and serve a purpose, Tolcher says, clearing mucus from the airways. Coughs are worrisome and rate a call to the pediatrician when they're severe, meaning:

  • When they're constant
  • Are associated with labored or noisy breathing
  • Are painful
  • Cause vomiting
  • Make a child uncomfortable
  • Keep a child up at night
  • Last more than two weeks  

For colds, Cohen suggests calling your doctor if there is:

  • Problems with breathing
  • Fever for longer than three days
  • Signs of dehydration (see above)  

Remember, no cough and cold medicines are recommended for infants and young children, Tolcher tells WebMD. "It's OK to treat fever and pain with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, but not with aspirin, which isn't recommended for children because of the risk of Reye's syndrome."

Rashes

Lots of things cause rashes, says Altmann, such as infections, hormones, and irritations like soap, drool, and, of course, wet diapers. Call your doctor if your child:

  • Is bothered by the rash
  • Starts acting sick
  • If the rash doesn't improve within 2 or 3 days
  • The rash looks like bruises and does not lighten in color when you press on it
  • The rash is associated with fever

 

Colic or Fussiness

Colic isn't really an illness, and you don't need to call your doctor for a colicky baby, yet "colic is one of the toughest things some parents will have to deal with," says Tolcher. And parents sometimes do need guidance through it.

"With colic (or anything else), if you don't know what to do, just call your doctor," he suggests. "Don't wait for a meltdown in yourself, ask for help, come in and have a meeting with your doctor, because one, you can make sure it is colic -- it could be a sensitivity, an allergy to formula, or GERD instead, for example -- and two, you can then find out what to do."

Luckily, colic happens only in 5%-10% of babies, and there are techniques that can help soothe a fussy, colicky infant, including:

  • Swaddling
  • Rocking
  • Humming
  • White noise
  • Putting them on their side (while they're awake only)
  • Home treatments

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