What it is: This is a different complication of an open inguinal canal. Abdominal tissue, such as a loop of intestine, may move into the opening, causing a painless bulge in a girl or boy's groin area that you may see during a diaper change, says Dr. McEvoy. Inguinal hernias can show up at any age, and are more common in boys than in girls.
What to do: Your baby will need minor surgery to close the open passageway in order to avoid developing a strangulated hernia, a condition that occurs when a piece of intestinal content gets stuck in the canal and cuts off the blood supply to that portion of the intestine, says Dr. McEvoy. If this happens, the bulge will look swollen, feel hard, and cause extreme pain. Your baby may vomit, cry inconsolably, feed poorly, or have a fever -- and you should take him to the E.R. immediately.
What it is: A hydrocele is yet another problem of the inguinal canal, but this one only affects boys. "When a boy's inguinal canal fails to close, fluid from the abdomen can collect in the scrotal sac," says Steven Tennenbaum, M.D., a pediatric urologist at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center. It isn't painful, but your baby's testicles may look swollen.
What to do: A hydrocele carries the same risk as a hernia. If it hasn't gone away on its own, doctors recommend surgery after the first birthday to drain the fluid and close the passageway.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
What it is: A UTI is an overgrowth of bacteria in the urinary tract. In the first year of life, they are more likely in boys, especially uncircumcised boys (the foreskin can trap bacteria). But baby girls can get UTIs too -- because the urethra and anus are so close in female anatomy. Many times, unexplained high fever is the only symptom of a UTI. But you may also notice odd-smelling urine, unexplained irritability, poor feeding, or vomiting. Notify your pediatrician if you do; if left untreated, a UTI can cause kidney damage.
What to do: A course of antibiotics (usually ten days) easily treats a UTI, says Dr. McEvoy.