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Health & Parenting

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Crying, Age 3 and Younger - Home Treatment

Illness or injury that may cause a child to cry

Young children may turn red or purple in the face when crying. A sick child may have pale, blue, or spots of bluish (mottled) skin and may be listless, unusually sleepy, or irritable. A sick child's cry may be weak and feeble or (in rare cases) high-pitched and piercing. If you think your child may be sick or hurt:

  • Check for a fever. For information on how to take a temperature, see the topic Body Temperature.
  • Look for other signs of illness, such as crying during feeding, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Check for other signs of pain.
    • Does your child have colic? You may want to limit visitors and activity during those times when he or she is most fussy.
    • Is something causing your child pain, such as an open pin sticking the skin, a red spot that may be an insect bite, or a strand of hair wrapped around a finger, a toe, or the penis?
    • Does your child have pain in the groin area? Check his groin area and scrotum or her groin area for a bulge that may be an inguinal hernia.
    • Does your young boy have scrotal swelling or tenderness (testicular torsion)? Testicular torsion can cause severe pain.
    • Has your child fallen or been dropped? Undress your child and look for swelling, bruises, or bleeding.

Comforting measures

If you don't find a reason for your child's crying, try comforting techniques, such as rocking your baby, breast-feeding, or offering a pacifier after breast-feeding is going well. If your child continues to cry after you have tried home treatment, place him or her in a safe, quiet place and leave him or her alone for 15 to 20 minutes. Sometimes children can relax and soothe themselves. Be sure to stay close by.

Talk with your child's doctor before giving your child any nonprescription medicines or herbal remedies as a comfort measure. Products with alcohol or sugar in them are not recommended.

Do not get angry at your child for crying. Never shake or harm your child. Shaking a child in anger or playing rough, such as throwing a baby up into the air and catching him or her, can cause shaken baby syndrome. If you find that you are losing patience or are afraid that you may hurt your child:

  • Place your child in a safe place while you go into another room, relax, and calm yourself.
  • Ask someone to help you. If you cannot find someone to take over for you and you still feel out of control, call your doctor.
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