Recognize Symptoms of a Sick Baby or Toddler

How do you know if you have a sick baby?

This page will help you recognize symptoms of serious illness in your baby or toddler, so you will know if you have a sick baby or toddler.

If you are ever worried that your baby or toddler is sick or unwell in any way, don't hesitate to see your doctor or seek medical attention. If the signs and symptoms on this page are not present, that can be reassuring, but always go with your gut instinct if you are worried - it is better to be safe.

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Symptoms of a Seriously Ill Baby

- see your doctor if your baby:

  • has poor feeding - feeding less than half normal
  • is very lethargic and uninterested in her surroundings
  • has difficulty breathing - her ribs are very prominent with each breath and she is struggling to breath
  • is cold to touch - press your thumb over her breast-bone for 5 seconds until the skin goes white. Take your thumb off and count in seconds until the color returns to the skin. (1000-1, 1000-2, 1000-3 etc is equivalent to 1 second, 2 seconds, 3 seconds etc). If the color has not returned within 3 seconds (1000-1, 1000-2, 1000-3), she needs urgent medical attention
  • is very irritable and difficult to settle
  • is blue in color around the lips or mouth
  • is grey or mottled in color
  • has bile-stained vomiting - read more
  • has a red rash that does not blanch (go away) when pressed - to read more and see a photo, click here
  • has high fever and misery for more than 5 days

If you think you have a sick baby, see your doctor urgently

For a helpful scoring system to assess if your baby is sick, use BabyCheck - click here - this is a scoring system designed by an English doctor to help parents of infants decide how sick their baby is.

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Symptoms of a Seriously Ill Toddler

- see your doctor if your toddler:

  • is very lethargic and uninterested in her surroundings
  • has difficulty breathing - her ribs are very prominent with each breath and she is struggling to breath
  • is cold to touch - press your thumb over her breast-bone for 5 seconds until the skin goes white. Take your thumb off and count in seconds until the color returns to the skin. (1000-1, 1000-2, 1000-3 etc is equivalent to 1 second, 2 seconds, 3 seconds etc). If the color has not returned within 3 seconds (1000-1, 1000-2, 1000-3), she needs urgent medical attention
  • is very irritable and difficult to settle
  • is blue in color around the lips or mouth
  • is grey or mottled in color
  • has bile-stained vomiting - read more
  • is complaining of a headache, particularly if first thing in the morning and associated with vomiting
  • has a stiff neck
  • has a red rash that does not blanch (go away) when pressed - to read more and see a photo, click here
  • has fever and misery for more than 5 days

If you think you have a sick toddler, see your doctor urgently

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To go to the top of the Symptoms of a Sick Baby page, click here 

To use BabyCheck for infants under 12 months, click here 

To go to the Crying page, click here 

To go to the Fever page, click here 

To go to the Vomiting page, click here 

To go to the Newborn Baby problem page, click here 

To return to the Home page, click here 


Last reviewed on 28 May 2011

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