Newborn Illness - How to Recognize  

This Care Guide Covers:

  • How infections and other serious diseases can present in newborns

If not, see these topics
When to Call Your Doctor

Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If
  • Can't wake up
  • Not moving or very weak
  • You think your child is having a life-threatening emergency
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
  • Any symptoms of illness such as coughing, diarrhea or vomiting. Vomiting bile (green color) is always bad.
  • Changes in feeding. Signs are having to wake up for feeds or can’t finish feeds.
  • Weak suck or can’t suck for very long
  • Sweating during feeds
  • Sleeping more than normal
  • Change in muscle tone (decreased or floppy)
  • Decreased movement
  • Change in color (such as pale, bluish or gray arms and legs)
  • Age under 12 weeks old with fever. (Caution: Do NOT give your baby any fever medicine before being seen.)
  • Low temperature below 96.8° F (36.0° C) rectally that does not go up with warming
  • New moaning or grunting noises with each breath
  • Change in cry, such as weak cry or strange cry
  • You think your baby needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
  • You think your baby needs to be seen, but not urgently. (Has none of the urgent symptoms listed above)
  • You have other questions or concerns
Parent Care at Home If
  • Your baby is feeding, moving and sleeping normally
Causes & Health Information

Why Newborns Need to be Watched Closely

  • Newborns are at higher risk for infections. Infections may present at any time during the first month. Watch your baby carefully for signs of illness. This is especially crucial during the first 7 days of life.
  • Newborns who get a blood infection (sepsis) can get very sick quickly.
  • The symptoms of serious illness in newborns can be subtle. The question below deals with sick newborns:
  • "Age under 1 month old (newborn) and starts to look or act abnormal in any way". Look for this question in the "Call Your Doctor Now" section. It is listed in at least 10 topics.
  • Feeding is the one reliable measure of a newborn’s well being.  Newborns should be eating machines. If your baby isn't feeding well, call your baby's doctor. Also, call if your baby has an abrupt change in his feeding pattern. (Exception: never a good feeder, but takes enough milk and nothing has changed).
  • If your newborn's appearance or behavior changes and you think it's abnormal, call now. Don't wait to call your baby's doctor for expert advice.

  1. What You Should Know:
    • Based on this review, your baby doesn't have any signs of illness right now.
    • During the early weeks of life, careful watching is always the best approach.  
  2. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Your baby starts to look or act abnormal in any way

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

This free app has a symptom checker,
dosage tables for common medications,
home health advice and more.

Apple version of the MD 4KIDS app
Android version of the MD 4KIDS app

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/1/2012

Last Revised: 1/13/2013

Content Set: Child Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.