When To Call The Doctor For A Sick Baby

It is sometimes difficult to know exactly when to call the doctor if your baby seems sick or even when to seek emergency care. Babies cannot tell us when something hurts. However, we can give you an idea on when to call the doctor or when to seek emergency care if you have a sick baby.

Signs that may require a call to your doctor

  • Changes in appetite
  • Changes in mood
  • Changes in skin colour
  • Tender navel or penis
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Constipation
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Ear pain
  • Rash
  • Eye discharge
  • Minor injuries

Signs that require emergency care

  • Bleeding that can’t be stopped
  • Poisoning
  • Seizures
  • Trouble breathing
  • High fever
  • Head injuries
  • Sudden lethargy or inability to move
  • Choking
  • Unresponsiveness


Infants who have not had a bowel movement in three days are most likely constipated. Infants usually pass about four stools a day. Breast-fed infants have even more bowel movements than formula-fed infants.

What to do about infant constipation?

  • 0 – 2 months: Call your doctor for advice
  • 2+ months: Give the infant 2-4 ounces of water twice a day. If constipation does not improve, try 2-4 ounces of fruit juice – such as grape, pear, apple, cherry or prune – twice a day.
  • 4+ months: If already eating solid foods, feed him or her baby food that is high in fibre such as peas, beans, apricots, prunes, peaches, pears, plums or spinach twice a day until constipation improves.

Never give mineral oil, stimulant laxatives or enemas to infants.

Infant constipation is rarely due to an underlying condition. It usually occurs with the transition from breast milk to formula or from strained foods to table foods. However, if constipation persists, call your doctor.

Learn more about baby constipation here.

Cradle cap

Cradle cap is another common condition in babies. Cradle cap can usually be prevented by shampooing your baby’s hair every few days with a mild baby shampoo.

Cradle cap causes scaly patches on a baby’s scalp; however, cradle cap is quite harmless. It looks awful, but it is harmless. The patches may be thick, yellow, crusty or greasy. It is most common in newborns, and often clears up on its own within a few months.

Managing your baby’s cradle cap

You can wash your baby’s hair once a day with mild baby shampoo, and loosen the scales with a small, soft-bristled brush before rinsing off the shampoo. If the scales do not loosen easily, rub a few drops of oil onto your baby’s scalp. When the oil soaks into the scales after a few minutes, then brush and shampoo your baby’s hair as usual. Do not leave the oil in your baby’s hair; it may allow more scales to accumulate.

Time to call your doctor is if frequent shampooing does not help or the scaly patches spread beyond baby’s scalp. Older babies may require a prescription anti-fungal shampoo if they acquire scalp ringworm infections. Scalp ringworm infections resemble cradle cap and would require calling your doctor for specific advice.

You can also check our article about cradle cap here.

Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use the information in this article to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your paediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child?s condition.

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