Tips & Hints When Your Newborn Is Sick
Author: Stef Daniel
Every time a child is born, so is a germaphobe. Suddenly moms are forcing hand-washing from family members and disinfecting doorknobs each and every time they are used. Previously you would pass by the sanitizing wipes at your grocery store, now you are wiping down the entire cart with more enthusiasm than you have when you wash your car. All this cleanliness and sudden interest in germ fighting is in a desperate attempt to keep your newborn from getting sick. Then, you have to visit the doctor's office for well visits and you notice that every child there is either sneezing, coughing or has their nose muddied with green phlegm. This experience by itself can make you wish you had a protective bubble to keep your child in. Unfortunately, a bubble isn't a possibility and there is always a good chance your newborn will pick up on viruses or bacterium regardless of how diligent you are in your war against germs. Take heart, there are things you can do to ease the pain.
The American Academy of Pediatrics considers any newborn 2 months and under that presents with a fever a reason to be seen immediately by the pediatrician. If your child has a fever without varying symptoms of congestions, chances are they will draw blood and urine samples as precautionary measures. This can be extremely frightening but is done in the anticipation of certain newborn illnesses that can result from birth which are extremely serious. At the same time, these infections are extremely rare. Urine will be drawn from a catheter and blood can be drawn from the arm with ease. When these serums come back routine - your doctor will offer simple tips for home care.
The first rule of thumb is that your newborn should not take any over the counter medications, even for fever - without your doctor's consent. While many of the medications on the market are labeled as "infant" - and have dosing requirements for newborns, you shouldn't begin medicating until you speak with your doctor. Chances are, if the fever is making your baby cranky or becomes high (common in newborns) they will recommend giving infant Advil or Tylenol. As far as fever reducing is concerned, infant Motrin has the longest lasting effect. Medicine given to newborns can be tricky because it is thicker and pastier than breast milk. Use the medicine dropper to give exactly the recommended dosage in very small amounts. Place it inside the mouth near the cheek so that it won't immediately trickle down their throat. If they have problems taking the medication, look for infant FeverAll suppositories that can be administered rectally. (Hint. These are great as your baby gets older and can be given without waking up your baby)
A fever with no other symptoms can be a sign of a virus. All viruses need to run their course and the only thing you can do is make them comfortable. It is very important to not over dress your newborn when they are sick. Newborns cannot regulate body temperature well and overheating, especially with a fever - can be extremely dangerous. You can dress them in a onesie with socks and if their fever begins rising, remove their hat if they are still wearing it. One thing to understand is that a fever is an indication of a working immune system. While it can make them fussy, it shows that their body is responding to the virus naturally and is working to fight it. This is a good thing! In fact, many doctors recommend NOT treating a fever that is below 100.4.
If your newborn has congestion or a cough, you should begin running a humidifier. No decongestants should be given to newborns. Instead, invest in a high quality bulb syringe and use infant saline spray to help them clear their noses. You can also prop them up on a pillow to help them with drainage while they sleep. If you do this, keep a regular hourly check on them to make sure they have not slipped off the pillow. A warm bath can also help ease the congestion, just make sure to dry them thoroughly afterwards.
One common infant illness is croup. It is characterized by a seal like cough or bark that usually only develops during the night. This too is viral, and is treated by a pediatrician with steroids that reduce the swelling in the airways responsible for the 'croupy' sound they make. If your baby has croup, cool air will reduce inflammation in the airways and a step outdoors can help them sleep.
When it comes to treating a newborn that is ill, remember your common sense! Don't give medications and try to do as much as you can to make them comfortable and reduce symptoms. Sure, it is scary the first time your child gets sick - but with some home care and a little extra TLC, you and your baby will be just fine. When newborns are sick, they may require more frequent feedings and a lot more time being held than normal. If this is the case, don't be shy about calling for reinforcements from trusted friends and family who can help you.