The Sick Baby Survival Guide

It can be scary when your little one feels under the weather - especially if you've not looked after a sick baby before. Here's how to help them get better.

When your little one gets sick for the first time, it can be scary. After all, you may have never had to deal with a sick baby before. How do you know when it’s serious? Should you be reaching for an extra blanket, medication or the doctor’s emergency line? If you’re worried that you may have a sick baby on your hands, the first thing to do is to take a deep breath and ask yourself these questions:


  1. Is Your Baby Acting Normal?

    If you notice your little one is feeling under the weather, start with simple observation. Is your child interacting the way they usually do — making eye contact and eating — or are they too quiet and listless? Are they rubbing their ears? Keep an eye on your baby’s symptoms, and note their behaviours throughout the day. When in doubt, call their doctor.

  2. How High Is Your Baby’s Fever?

    Low-grade fevers typically resolve themselves with time. For an accurate temperature reading, use rectal thermometers. If your child is under 3 months old and has a fever of 38 degrees or over, a trip to the doctor is in order. For children 3 months or older, the number really isn’t important, unless it goes above 38.88 degrees. It is okay to visit your doctor if you’re concerned, but it’s also okay to ride it out, unless you’re dealing with a newborn or there are other symptoms like faster than usual breathing.

  3. Should You Give Medication or Let the Fever Ride?

    Both choices to give and not give medication for a fever are okay. Fever medication doesn’t kill viruses or bacteria; however they keep your child comfortable — which helps you be comfortable. As said, parents should seek medical attention if your newborn has a fever over 38 degrees, but if your child is over 3 months old, reaching for medication is up to you if the number is below 38.88.

    Before giving fever reducers to your baby under 3 months, check with your paediatrician. Children under 6 months should not have ibuprofen, and aspirin should be avoided unless instructed by your doctor. Acetaminophen can be taken every four to six hours. Before giving any medication, be sure you check the dosage amounts. Dealing with a sick baby gets hectic, so jot down every time you give mediation to avoid giving too much.

    If your baby seems distressed, comforting them is more important than bringing a low fever down. Look to your baby for cues about how to make them comfortable. Sometimes, light dressing will be best, but avoid bundling them up, even if they have the chills. Instead, make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature, and hold baby against your warm body. Babies typically respond well to snuggling and the comfort of skin-on-skin touch when they aren’t feeling well.

  4. How Do You Keep Your Sick Baby Nourished?

    It is important to keep your little one hydrated when they’re not feeling well. You might want water, but breast milk or infant electrolyte solution is better for babies. Water is okay for babies older than 6 months, but younger than that, their kidneys can’t handle straight water.

    Parents should keep track of nappy changes, too: check with the doctor if your infant is vomiting and has diarrhoea, without producing many wet diapers. This could be a sign of dehydration, so inform your paediatrician if you’re concerned.


If you talk to a thousand parents, you’ll get a thousand different suggestions for taking care of a sick baby. You know your baby better than anyone else, so go with your gut. Trust your instincts, and if you are worried, call their doctor.


* This article is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be providing medical advice and is not a substitute for such advice. The reader should always consult a health care provider concerning any medical condition or treatment plan. Neither nor the author assumes any responsibility or liability with respect to use of any information contained herein.


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