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Crying Child That Is Not Acting Normally - Topic Overview

Signs of pain

A baby who is in pain may:

  • Have a furrowed brow, wrinkled forehead, or closed eyes.
  • Have a change in his or her daily activities or behavior (such as decreased appetite, irritability, restlessness, or agitated behavior).
  • Sleep more or less than usual. He or she may suddenly start waking up during sleeping, appearing to be in pain. Even if a baby is having severe pain, the baby may take short naps because he or she is exhausted.
  • Grunt when breathing or hold his or her breath.
  • Have clenched fists and pull his or her legs up or kick.
  • Cling to whoever holds him or her, or the baby may be limp and not move at all.
  • Flinch and move to protect a painful area of his or her body when touched.

Minor injuries or illnesses that can cause a child to cry

  • An open diaper pin in the skin
  • A piece of hair wrapped around a finger, a toe, or the penis
  • Bumping the child's head when putting him or her in a car seat
  • A fall (or being dropped) that causes a small bruise or scratch
  • A broken collarbone (fractured clavicle)
  • An eyelash or other object in the eye. Look for one eye that is red and tearing more than the other eye. An eyelash in the eye may scratch the clear covering (cornea) over the colored part of the eye, causing a corneal abrasion.
  • An insect bite. Look for a reddened area on the skin, and look for any insects, such as mosquitoes or spiders. If you suspect a dangerous spider (a brown recluse or black widow) or scorpion bite, capture the insect and seek medical care right away. These insects can cause serious reactions (especially in young children), such as coma and death.
  • A foreign object stuck in the skin or an opening, such as an ear. Young children can put small things—such as beads, rocks, popcorn, plastic toy pieces, or small batteries—in their body openings. It may be hard to see these small things and remove them.
  • Pinkeye (conjunctivitis). If other children you know have pinkeye and there has been no injury to your child, consider that the redness may be pinkeye.
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