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Crying Child That Is Not Acting Normally - Topic Overview

Crying is a child's first way of communicating. Parents and caregivers become better over time at identifying their child's cry. Along with crying, a child may not act normally when something is wrong with him or her. Infection, illness, injury or pain, or a medical problem may cause a child to not act normally.

If your baby has colic, you may be concerned that a health condition is causing the excessive crying. Usually a baby with colic isn't crying because of pain or physical discomfort. But it is important to be aware that health problems or injuries can cause a baby to cry excessively. And it's important to watch for related signs.

Here are a few things to look for that may mean your baby has a health problem.

Signs of not acting normally

  • Looks or acts different, such as a change in balance or coordination
  • Appears confused or doesn't interact with people or objects in his or her environment. Look for a change in the level of consciousness.
  • Sleeps more or appears to have no energy
  • Cries more than usual or cries during sleep
  • Has refused two feedings in a row or is vomiting
  • A baby older than 1 month has a different type of cry than you have identified as usual for him or her.
  • Cries and is fussy after 24 hours of home treatment
  • Has swelling over a body part and cries (pain cry) when the area is touched or moved
  • Refuses to use an arm or leg or refuses to walk or stand. (This is for children who are old enough to walk. Children usually start to walk when they are 9 to 15 months of age.)

If your child isn't acting normally, check for a fever. For information on how to take a temperature, see the topic Body Temperature.

Medical treatment is needed for a fall or injury that causes more serious symptoms, such as a head injury or severe bleeding. Medical evaluation may also be needed for injuries that cause swelling and pain in the affected area.

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