Urinary-Tract Infections & Croup
These are actually very common in young children, particularly girls. The reason: "Their urethras are very short, providing bacteria from the bowel easy access to the bladder," says Dr. Johnston. There's also evidence that uncircumcised boys are at increased risk of infection because of the way urine flows beneath the foreskin. In most cases, a urinary-tract infection (UTI) will cause a fever, lower abdominal pain, and painful urination. A toddler may clutch her stomach and grimace or cry when she urinates. You might also notice an unpleasant odor or blood in her urine. Younger babies may have vomiting, diarrhea, and irritability.
UTIs should be treated with antibiotics, so see the pediatrician as soon as you suspect your child has one. He'll probably take her blood pressure and get a urine sample to confirm that an infection is present. If one is confirmed, your child should have an evaluation of her urinary tract (usually by x-ray or ultrasound) to make sure that her kidneys have not been affected. In the meantime, apply a hot-water bottle wrapped in a towel to her abdomen and have her avoid bubble baths and perfumed soaps that could irritate her genitals. Finally, make sure she drinks lots of water to flush out bacteria from the bladder.
The cough starts just after midnight. The sound is so horrible and distinctive, like the bark of a seal, that most pediatricians can diagnose the problem over the phone as croup -- an inflammation of the larynx and trachea. Doctors don't know why, but croup affects twice as many boys as girls; children between 6 months and 3 years of age are most susceptible because their windpipe is small, making breathing difficult if it swells up.
Croup often follows a viral infection (such as a cold), so antibiotics are rarely helpful. Attacks usually subside when a child breathes in very cold or very hot air, which helps "shock" swollen airways into shrinking long enough to bring relief. Try taking your baby out in the cool night air or for a car ride with the windows down, or run a hot shower and then sit in the bathroom and have him breathe in the steam. "You might also want to sing to him or play soft music," says Dr. Johnston. "The more relaxed he is, the easier it will be for him to breathe."
If his breathing stays noisy and labored, call 911 or take him to the ER; he may need steroids or a bronchodilator. You should also get emergency help if he has trouble catching his breath or if he gasps or makes a whistling sound whenever he inhales.