When to Call the Doctor

When your baby gets sick, especially for the first time, it’s hard not to panic. For emergencies, you know to dial 911 but when it comes to fevers, coughs, tummy aches or diarrhea, it can be difficult to tell how serious the problem is and when to call your child’s healthcare provider.

When is the right time to call your doctor? The short and easy answer is that if you have concerns, it is always best to call. Most pediatricians’ offices even have a nurse on-call after hours who can help you figure out the next steps for your sick baby.

When you do call, the nurse will ask you about the child’s symptoms so it is important that you are paying close attention to your baby’s appearance and behavior. Here are some of the symptoms that might be a sign of something more serious.

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High or Continued Fever

When the fever doesn’t respond to fever-reducing medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen (make sure to check for proper dosage depending on your child’s weight) and lasts more than a couple days. Always call your health care provider for any fever above 100.4 in an infant under three months old.


Watch for signs that your baby may be in pain. They will likely be irritable and difficult to console and not interested in nursing or feeding. Infants with ear infections may let out a loud, screaming cry when lying down.

Tummy Ache

If you gently touch their belly you may be able to tell if they are in pain due to them wiggling and writhing around and crying. If your baby is having constipation or diarrhea, your baby’s health care provider can give you advice about how to handle this.


Unusual rashes, blisters, spots, hives or sores on your baby’s skin.


If a fall occurs from any height that causes swelling or your baby seems to be in pain or behaving differently.


If you see your baby’s ribs, stomach or neck muscles flexing, hear wheezing, or they have a non-stop cough that’s disrupting their sleep.

Whatever the symptom – a high fever that struck in the middle of the night, a croupy cough, or a bought of diarrhea – you should always feel comfortable calling your pediatrician or health care provider.

In fact, your comfort level should be an important factor in choosing a doctor. Another thing to look for when selecting a health care provider is whether the office has someone dedicated to answering calls when the office is closed. This health resource can offer reassurance or direct you to make an appointment based on your personal situation.

You can also sign up for an infant care class to help you feel more comfortable and better prepared to care for your baby, even when they get sick.