12 baby and toddler symptoms you should never ignore

Because your baby doesn’t come with a manual, you often need to follow your gut when it comes to her health. But what is normal and when should you worry? We look at 12 baby and toddler symptoms that requires immediate medical attention.

The symptom: Loud breathing or snuffling at night

Most babies will make snuffling or snoring noises of some sort when they sleep – particularly if they have a stuffy nose. In general, this is perfectly normal.

When to worry

If your baby snores, is restless at night and overly tired during the day, he may have obstructive sleep apnoea. Child development expert and father of eight Dr William Sears, explains that if your baby’s tonsils or adenoids are enlarged, they can block the upper airway passages during the night, which can cause sleep apnoea. A visit to your paediatrician or an ear, nose and throat specialist can provide a quick diagnosis and should this be the case, surgery may be recommended.


The symptom: A puffy face

In your newborn, a puffy face and swollen eyelids is completely normal. After all, your baby has just passed through that narrow passageway of your pelvis.

When to worry

If your older baby has a puffy face, it could be a sign of allergies. According to the Allergy Foundation of South Africa (AFSA), allergies are on the increase and children seem to be the most affected. According to research, about 40% of all allergy suffers are children. And, reports AFSA, a third of all South Africans will develop allergies at some point during their lifetime. This includes asthma, hay fever, eczema, food allergies or a severe allergic reaction, known as anaphylaxis. It’s important to be aware of what could spark an allergic reaction, as well as what the symptoms are. The severity of a reaction can vary, such as a puffy face or sniffing and sneezing, to severe, which includes skin inflammation, vomiting, swelling and problems breathing. A severe reaction is considered a medical emergency.

ALSO SEE: Everything you need to know about allergies

The symptom: Turning blue

A blueish tinge to hands or feet, particularly this time of the year, can simply mean your baby is cold.

When to worry

A blue colour around the lips and face generally means your baby is not getting enough oxygen. Dr Sears says if this is accompanied by coughing, rapid or labored breathing, fever, vomiting and wheezing, your baby could have pneumonia. If your baby starts to look blue over the first few months of life, accompanied by shortness of breath, a fast pulse rate and gets tired easily, this could mean a heart defect. Either way, a baby with a blue face is cause for concern and is considered a medical emergency. Get help fast.

ALSO SEE: Your guide to childhood respiratory illnesses

The symptom: Slow growth

Each baby is different, and you may find your baby doesn’t reach milestones at the recommended age or stage. More often than not, weight gain is linked to feeding practices during the first six months of life. This is why you need to have regular clinic checks in the first few months of life – to ensure that your baby is healthy and growing. Don’t forget, your baby is a blend of you and your partner, and if you are both small, chances are your baby will be, too.

When to worry

Any issues will be picked up during the clinic visits. If your baby’s height falls below the third percentile, there could be cause for concern. Potential causes could be a thyroid problem, an issue with the endocrine system, or a heart condition.

ALSO SEE: What is growth monitoring and why is it important?

The symptom: A headache

It’s very difficult to know if your baby has a headache, particularly under the age of one, as this can’t be communicated to you. However, symptoms of a headache include a poor appetite, pulling on the ear, inexplicable crying or lethargy.

When to worry

According to the Child Neurology Foundation and Dr Carl Crosley, occasional headaches in children are common and affect almost half of all children by the age of seven. Headaches are often associated with illness, such as a cold or an upper respiratory infection. If your baby has a fever, cold hands and feet, is fretful, drowsy, floppy and unresponsive, has a pale, blotchy skin, unusual crying or moaning, is vomiting and has tense, bulging fontanelle, seek immediate medical attention as these are all signs of meningitis.

The symptom: Not engaging with the outside world

If you are concerned that your baby doesn’t seem to register you or the outside world, he may not be able to hear or see you. Don’t forget, it can take a few weeks for your baby to focus on visuals and sounds. He may startle when he hears a loud sound, but will only start turning towards that sound from about eight weeks.

When to worry

By three months of age, your baby should be communicating and interacting with you. If you are concerned, speak to your paediatrician or clinic sister, as not responding to you could be a sign of a hearing or sight problem. Autism is also a concern, but the experts say this is only picked up around 12 to 14 months of age. According to Autism South Africa, the incidence of autism seems to be on the increase, affecting one in 168 births and is four times as common in boys than girls. The onset is generally from birth, or before the age of three years. However, hearing and sight issues should be ruled out first, before autism is a consideration.

Get the following symptoms checked out immediately

  • High fever (babies shouldn’t get fevers within the first three months)
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhoea
  • Breathing problems
  • Continuous crying
  • Extreme fatigue or listlessness
  • Jaundice

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