Midwife, Christina Altmann shares her advice on what to do when your baby becomes ill for the first time
There is nothing more exciting than welcoming a baby into the world after months of preparation and anticipation, waiting for them to be born. However, when they first become ill, it can be a frightening time for parents as you try to understand what is wrong and the baby care you need to give in order to help them feel better.
Understanding the body’s own alarm and defence system
An infection, for example a cold or gastrointestinal irritation is a harmless disease. These are caused by bacteria or viruses entering the body and multiplying. Usually the immune system deals with these ‘invaders’ on its own without any additional help, but during this time symptoms can appear such as a cough, sneezing or an upset stomach.
Babies have an immune system, however it won’t have been exposed to different bacteria and viruses, and so it takes time for the body to successfully combat an infection. Once your little one has recovered from being unwell, the body will store information on the infection so that it is able to quickly fight it off, should it come into contact with it again.
Baby care during the first cold
Often the first infection a baby experiences is a cold. These are especially common if you have older children as they will bring different pathogens into the home from school.
Most of the time, your little one’s nose will start to run before the coughing begins. However, it’s important to remember a cold isn’t dangerous for babies, although it can be a difficult time for you as parents as your baby struggles to sleep and drink from a bottle or breast due to congestion. There are a few things you can try to help your baby feel more comfortable, including using a few drops of saline solution from the pharmacy and hanging a very wet towel and cut onion in the bedroom to help moisten and purify the air. If your baby does have a cough it’s always best to contact your doctor so that they can monitor it and rule out any other issues.
Help, my baby has a fever
A fever develops as the body’s immune system reacts to the penetration of bacteria or viruses, which struggle to survive in higher temperatures. For very young children who experience a fever, it’s important to visit your doctor if their temperature rises rapidly, and for newborns it’s always best to go straight to the hospital so that any more serious infections can be ruled out. A baby’s temperature can be measured using an ear thermometer from birth providing results quickly and easily allowing you to understand what baby care to provide.
As babies build their immune system, they will show symptoms from small infections such as colds which won’t require a trip to the emergency doctor or hospital if they are in otherwise good health. However, if your little one is under six months of age and presents a fever, take them to the doctor to help ease your mind. Even more so if they haven’t had a recent vaccination that might explain the sudden rise in temperature.