When to Call a Doctor

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Parents of premature and sick newborns may have spent many months in NICU or SCN nursing their baby through illness and complicated medical conditions. 

When at home even the healthiest of babies can have an occasional illness and it can be tough knowing when to call a doctor or seek emergency care.

Signs that may require a call to your doctor include:
  • Fever – a fever in children is a high body temperature of 38 degrees Celsius or above. Contact your doctor if your child is under three months of age, is convulsing or hallucinating, the fever persists for more than a day, your child is complaining of stiff neck, doesn’t respond to medication. Fevers can cause seizures called febrile convulsions, if your child has a convulsion call an ambulance.
  • Change in Breathing - every baby has their own unique breathing pattern. If you notice your baby having trouble breathing, changes such as fast heavy breathing, laboured breathing, apnoea’s or they seem like they can’t catch their breath contact your doctor.
  • Vomiting – occasional vomiting or spit up is normal. If your baby vomits multiple feeds or shows signs of dehydration such as weight loss, dry mouth, fewer wet nappies contact your doctor.
  • Dehydration – most commonly occurs with vomiting and diarrhoea. If your baby is not drinking enough fluids, has fewer wet nappies, shows signs of weight loss, dry mouth, crying without tears or irritable and lethargic contact your doctor.
  • Changes in appetite- Babies are at risk of dehydration if they sustain long periods without food or water contact your doctor.
  • Changes in mood –if your baby is irritable, lethargic or has episodes of inconsolable crying contact your doctor.
  • Changes in skin colour – if you notice your baby is becoming pale or mildly bluish contact your doctor
  • Change in bowel habits - if your baby has diarrhoea, constipation or any other changes in bowel habits contact your doctor.
  • Rash – if your baby develops a rash that covers a large area, appears infected, oozes or is accompanied with a fever contact your doctor.
  • Ear Trouble - if your baby pulls at their ears, appears to be in pain or you notice blood or pus in their ears contact your doctor.
Signs & symptoms that require emergency care include:
  • Trouble breathing
  • Bleeding that can’t be stopped
  • Choking
  • Poisoning
  • Seizures
  • High fever
  • Head injuries
  • Sudden lack of lethargy or inability to move
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Blood in the urine, bloody diarrhoea or persistent diarrhoea
  • Skin or lips that look blue, purple or gray
  • Allergic reactions

Remember, If you think something is wrong or you are unsure contact your doctor anyway. It is better to be safe.

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Disclaimer: This publication by Miracle Babies Foundation is intended solely for general education and assistance and it is it is not medical advice or a healthcare recommendation. It should not be used for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment for any individual condition. This publication has been developed by our Parent Advisory Team (all who are parents of premature and sick babies) and has been reviewed and approved by a Clinical Advisory Team. This publication is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Miracle Babies Foundation recommends that professional medical advice and services be sought out from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your personal circumstances.To the extent permitted by law, Miracle Babies Foundation excludes and disclaims any liability of any kind (directly or indirectly arising) to any reader of this publication who acts or does not act in reliance wholly or partly on the content of this general publication. If you would like to provide any feedback on the information please email [email protected].