First Year Survival Guide
Common infant ailments and how to cope
Respiratory Syncytial Virus
RSV is a cold with attitude. This virus may appear like a cold at first, but it can progress to a lung infection characterized by rapid breathing and wheezing in infants. “It’s especially hard on babies under 4 months of age,” Mahle says. “RSV can be serious. If your infant develops wheezing or you see him working harder to breathe, consult your pediatrician at once.”
Second to colds, ear infections are the most common childhood illness. Most children suffer through at least one by age 3. Babies and young children are particularly prone to ear infections because their eustachian tubes — the ducts that connect the middle ear to the throat — are short and easily blocked. This can lead to fluid buildup in the middle ear, which can be a breeding ground for bacteria.
Ear infections often follow a cold and can be very painful. Babies may pull or rub their ears, cry when sucking or have trouble sleeping (lying down increases pressure on the eardrum). They also may run a fever.
If you suspect that your baby has an ear infection, call your pediatrician. Standard treatment is a 10-day course of antibiotics. You can ease your baby’s discomfort with a pain reliever such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Never give aspirin, even baby aspirin, to a child: It has been associated with Reye’s syndrome, a serious disease that affects the liver and brain.
Help relieve ear pressure by feeding baby in a more upright position and elevating her head with a pillow at night. After the medication is finished, your baby will require a follow-up doctor’s visit.
Diarrhea, or frequent runny stools, usually is caused by a viral infection, but it also can result from too much fruit in the diet or food sensitivity. Diarrhea also can be caused by a response to teething or antibiotics.
“You need to figure out if it’s infectious,” Mahle says. “If there’s an acute onset accompanied by fever and vomiting or lack of appetite, then you’re dealing with a virus. It’s self-limiting and will go away.” But, she adds, it may take from four days to two weeks.
If it is a bug, the current thinking is to continue baby’s regular feedings. If your baby is eating solid foods, you might want to stick to the “BRAT” diet: bananas, rice, applesauce and toast. If your baby is vomiting, it’s important to prevent dehydration; try an over-the-counter oral rehydration fluid such as Pedialyte for 12–24 hours. Check with your pediatrician if diarrhea persists longer than a day, if baby continues vomiting and develops a fever, or if there is blood in the stool.