A Guide to Common Infant Illnesses

There are several different infant illnesses for a parent to be wary of. Some illnesses a considered very common among infants while others are a little more unusual. As parents, it is important that we keep a close watch on our infants to ensure that any abnormal behavior is caught as soon as possible. This can save both parents and the child a great deal of distress, and in the event that a serious illness is at hand, early detection could even save the child's life. We are going to talk about a few infant illnesses that most parents are likely to encounter.

Ear Infection

Almost everyone has had to suffer through a childhood ear infection. This is a very common condition which is caused by a buildup of fluid in the middle ear. The symptoms of this condition can be a little difficult to detect, and because most children experience this pain before they are able to speak, parents have to look pretty close to discern the cause of the child's pain. Typically, an infant will cry when he/she is lying down, may have trouble sleeping, or uses a pacifier or sucks on their thumb excessively. So of the more visible symptoms include redness of and around the ear, fever, and drainage coming from the ear.

Ear infections are typically caused by a bacterial infection. The best way to treat a bacterial infection is through the use of antibiotics. This means that if a parent suspects that their child has an ear infection, a trip to the doctor will be in order. A quick exam by the doctor will confirm suspicions of an ear infection and a prescription can be given to clear up the infection.

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Diarrhea is another of the most common infant illnesses. Diarrhea isn't the mere presence of a soft or watery stool; technically this type of stool must be present at least three times a day to be considered diarrhea. Unless a change in diet has occurred (such as going from breast milk to formula or switching brands of formula), most cases of diarrhea are the result of a viral infection. As antibiotics are not effective against viruses, the virus simply has to run its course until the body fights it naturally.

Diarrhea caused by a viral infection is often accompanied by a fever and/or vomiting. Because the child is at such an increased risk of dehydration (especially if they are vomiting in addition to having diarrhea), parents must take actions to ensure that their child replenishes fluids often. This involves offering the child plenty of water and possibly an electrolyte supplement such as Pedialyte. If the child is unable to keep the electrolyte drink or water down, then the best course of action would be to contact the child's doctor for a recommended treatment. This may involve supplying the child with fluids via an intravenous (IV).


The dreaded fever is more of a symptom produced by another illness, such as flu, cold, or infection, but we figure it deserves a spot on this list. Many parents are unsure of how to handle a fever and when the best time is to call the doctor. As tempting as it may be to pump our children full of trusted infant medications like Tylenol or Motrin, there is a time and situation for everything. As difficult as it can be to resist administering medication at the first signs of a slight fever, this is probably not the best method of treatment for a fever.

When the human body detects bacteria or a virus, it elevates its temperature in order to make the host environment unlivable for the intruders. This is a fever. Medications such as Tylenol and Motrin do not help to rid the body of the infection—they merely treat the symptoms. Unless antibiotics are used, the best chance the body has at fighting off the bacteria or virus is by running a fever until the bacteria/virus count drops in number. Eventually the count will drop to the point that it can be managed by the white blood cells. This is often the time that a fever "breaks".

There are a few general rules one can use to determine when a trip to the doctor is necessary. A temperature of 100 degrees F in a child under 4 months old is considered a fever. A temperature of 101 degrees F in a child between 4 and 6 months is considered a fever. Any time a child under the age of 6 months runs a fever, the parent should contact a doctor for a suggested course of action. Over six months of age, a low-grade fever (under 102 degrees F) generally does not require much in the way of treatment unless the child is feeling particularly miserable. A fever over 103 degrees F is considered a high fever and should be monitored closely. If the high fever cannot be brought down to at least 102 or 101, the child should be taken to the doctor as soon as possible.

Age-appropriate medications can be given to the child to reduce fever. A lukewarm bath and dressing the child in light, breathable clothing can also help to reduce the baby's body temperature. If these measures do not help to bring down the child's temperature, a doctor should be contacted immediately.


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