Newborn Warning Signs
What warning signs may mean a problem with a newborn?
Your newborn baby is going through many changes in getting used to life in the outside
world. This adjustment almost always goes well. But there are certain warning signs
you should watch for with newborns. These include:
Not urinating (this may be hard to tell, especially with disposable diapers)
No bowel movement for 48 hours
Fever (see below for information about fever and children)
Breathing fast (for example, over 60 breaths per minute) or a bluish skin coloring
that doesn’t go away. Newborns normally have irregular breathing, so you need to count
for a full minute. There should be no pauses longer than about 10 seconds between
Pulling in of the ribs when taking a breath (retraction)
Wheezing, grunting, or whistling sounds while breathing
Odor, drainage, or bleeding from the umbilical cord
Worsening yellowing (jaundice) of the skin on the chest, arms, or legs, or whites
of the eyes
Crying or irritability that does not get better with cuddling and comfort
A sleepy baby who cannot be awakened enough to nurse or bottle-feed
Signs of sickness (for example, cough, diarrhea, pale skin color)
Poor appetite or weak sucking ability
Vomiting, especially when it is yellow or green in color
Every child is different. Trust your knowledge of your child and call your child's
healthcare provider if you see signs that are worrisome to you.
Fever and children
Use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Don’t use a mercury thermometer.
There are different kinds and uses of digital thermometers. They include:
Rectal. For children younger than 3 years, a rectal temperature is the most accurate.
Forehead (temporal). This works for children age 3 months and older. If a child under 3 months old has
signs of illness, this can be used for a first pass. The provider may want to confirm
with a rectal temperature.
Ear (tympanic). Ear temperatures are accurate after 6 months of age, but not before.
Armpit (axillary). This is the least reliable but may be used for a first pass to check a child of any
age with signs of illness. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.
Mouth (oral). Don’t use a thermometer in your child’s mouth until he or she is at least 4 years
Use the rectal thermometer with care. Follow the product maker’s directions for correct
use. Insert it gently. Label it and make sure it’s not used in the mouth. It may pass
on germs from the stool. If you don’t feel OK using a rectal thermometer, ask the
healthcare provider what type to use instead. When you talk with any healthcare provider
about your child’s fever, tell him or her which type you used.
Below are guidelines to know if your young child has a fever. Your child’s healthcare
provider may give you different numbers for your child. Follow your provider’s specific
Fever readings for a baby under 3 months old:
Fever readings for a child age 3 months to 36 months (3 years):
Rectal, forehead, or ear: 102°F (38.9°C) or higher
Armpit: 101°F (38.3°C) or higher
Call the healthcare provider in these cases:
Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher in a child of any age
Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher in baby younger than 3 months
Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under age 2
Fever that lasts for 3 days in a child age 2 or older