How to Keep Your Baby Healthy
Tummy Troubles & Pneumonia
Occasional vomiting and diarrhea in an otherwise healthy child is usually no cause for alarm. But if it's accompanied by a bellyache and fever, she may have gastroenteritis -- which is a fancy name for an uncomfortable inflammation of the stomach and intestines. "It's most often caused by an infection, but it can also flare up if a child is on antibiotics," says Dr. Shook.
Although you should let the pediatrician know if your child has symptoms of gastroenteritis, most cases can be managed at home and will clear up within a few days. But you should watch out for signs of dehydration -- dry mouth, sunken eyes, scant urine, and a lack of tears in a baby over 8 months -- particularly if your baby or toddler can't keep fluids down or passes watery stool every hour or two. She'll need to be seen right away or taken to the ER for intravenous fluids.
In some cases, a commercial rehydrating solution, such as Gerber's Pediatric Electrolyte, Pedialyte, or ReVital, may be recommended. Babies may be nursed again or given formula when they can keep liquids down for two to three hours. Call the doctor immediately if a child of any age has a fever, acts listless, vomits blood or green bile, experiences sharp abdominal pain, or hasn't kept fluids down for more than 12 hours.
If your child has a mild case of diarrhea, give her plain foods (if she's started solids) such as rice cereal, bread, or jarred baby food. Avoid giving her too much juice, which can irritate the intestines.
Your baby looks limp and pale and has a fever of 101°F. His nostrils keep flaring, and he seems to be wheezing and breathing faster than usual. Call the doctor right away: He may have pneumonia, an infection of the lungs that usually follows a cold or other respiratory disorder.
"Pneumonia is usually less worrisome in a child than it is in an adult, so most children can be cared for at home," says Dr. Johnston. If your baby is under 3 months of age, however, you'll want to call your doctor at the first sign of illness, and take him to the emergency room if he's having trouble breathing. If your child has a viral infection, medication generally isn't necessary and the infection should clear up on its own in a few days. A bacterial infection, on the other hand, will require antibiotics. To help your child feel more comfortable, make sure he gets plenty of rest and lots of fluids. (Babies can continue to nurse or drink formula.) A cool-mist vaporizer will help keep secretions in his lungs loose. You can also loosen congestion by turning your shower to the hottest setting and sitting with your child in the steam-filled bathroom for ten minutes. Don't give him cough suppressants without a pediatrician's okay.