'Tis the season for look-alike illnesses. Our handy reference helps you identify winter's bad guys so you can treat your ailing babe.
CALLING CARD Deep, barking cough, usually at night
THE SUSPECT Croup, the swelling of the voice box and windpipe, is usually caused by a virus.
STING OPERATION Reduce swelling by taking baby into a steamy bathroom for 15 to 20 minutes to loosen congestion. A cool-mist vaporizer placed close to where baby sleeps can help too.
WHEN TO CALL FOR BACKUP If symptoms worsen — your baby's inhaling changes to a whistling sound or your baby can't cry or he's drooling excessively — call your doctor immediately.
PROBATIONARY PERIOD Expect a few difficult nights. If baby is struggling for breath, call 911 right away.
CALLING CARD Wheezing or grunting breathing
THE SUSPECT RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is an infection of the lungs and airways. It's fairly common and highly contagious. RSV develops from the common cold.
STING OPERATION The condition will generally run its course without medical treatment. Ease discomfort with a vaporizer, and nurse or feed formula often to prevent dehydration.
WHEN TO CALL FOR BACKUP Parents of preemies, very young infants or those with other medical conditions should call their doctors.
PROBATIONARY PERIOD Those with RSV are contagious for about a week. During that time, try to keep baby away from other children.frequently.
CALLING CARD Chills, cough, stuffy nose, diarrhea, vomiting and sometimes fever
THE SUSPECT The flu shares symptoms with the common cold, but it generally starts rapidly and comes with more severe symptoms.
STING OPERATION Call your pediatrician as soon as you suspect baby may have the flu, especially if your baby is very young or has other medical issues. Make sure your baby gets plenty of rest.
WHEN TO CALL FOR BACKUP Your baby's doctor may be able to prescribe an antiviral drug to help baby feel better soon.
PROBATIONARY PERIOD Your baby may be sick for three to five days, but she could be contagious for up to a week.
CALLING CARD Runny nose, nasal congestion, cough and sneezing
THE SUSPECT The common cold is a viral infection of the nose and throat. Another symptom is a low-grade fever.
STING OPERATION Baby needs time to recover. Keep him hydrated and rested, and keep his nasal passages moist with saline drops or an air vaporizer to help reduce inflammation.
WHEN TO CALL FOR BACKUP Call your doctor if the symptoms last for more than two weeks or if the cough morphs into wheezing or gasping.
PROBATIONARY PERIOD Expect to see baby's condition start to improve in a week. If it doesn't, see your doctor.