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Crying, Age 3 and Younger - Topic Overview

On rare occasions, crying may point to a serious illness or injury. Crying caused by a serious illness or injury usually lasts much longer than normal and your baby may not be acting normally.

  • Some illnesses may cause persistent crying. These include common infections, such as ear infections (otitis media) or urinary tract infections, and rarer infections, such as meningitis, encephalitis, or sepsis with dehydration. A persistent cry in a newborn may be the first sign of a serious illness, such as sepsis.
  • A serious injury from a fall, being shaken, or abuse may cause a child to cry for a long time. Other signs of injury, such as swelling, bruising, or bleeding, are usually present.

Crying can be very frustrating for a parent or caregiver. 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 him or her into the air, can injure the brain. Shaken baby syndrome needs to be reported to your doctor. 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.

Certain medical conditions can cause a young child to cry, such as gastroesophageal reflux, inguinal hernia, or intussusception.

Check your child's symptoms to decide if and when your child should see a doctor.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 05, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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