Is It an Emergency? 5 Baby Health Scares

More Health Scares

Falls Off the Changing Table
It's an emergency if your baby isn't breathing. Start CPR and call 911. If she's breathing and not responsive, skip the CPR and go straight to calling 911. Since falls can cause fractures and serious head injuries, let your baby's behavior guide you. Check her entire body for any signs of injury: redness, swelling, pain from touch, bleeding, or other worrisome signs including excessive crying, vomiting, and abnormal eye movements. If she refuses to move an arm or leg, doesn't seem like herself, won't wake easily from sleep, is inconsolably fussy, or vomits 12 to 24 hours after she's fallen, seek immediate medical attention.

It's probably not if you can easily soothe your baby's cries after a fall, and she seems to behave normally. Even vomiting within the first 12 hours after a fall is not concerning, assures Dr. Beno. "After a bump on the head the brain is irritated, and vomiting in the first 12 hours is normal." After that, however, it may signal a brain injury.

Make sure there's no swelling or bruising anywhere and that your baby can still move her arms and legs, advises pediatrician Samira L. Brown, M.D., of Ochsner for Children in New Orleans. Then watch for unusual behavior. If any of the more serious symptoms develop within 24 hours after the fall, see your doctor immediately. "Once you get through the first 24 hours, your baby should be fine," says Dr. Beno.

Swallows an Object
It's an emergency if you think your baby put an object like a small toy in his mouth, and he can't breathe or is struggling for breath, or he swallowed a button battery. Call 911. "Batteries are incredibly toxic," explains Dr. Beno. Indeed, a button battery that gets lodged in the esophagus needs to come out immediately; it can cause severe chemical burns within two hours.

It's probably not if the object isn't toxic or making him cough or vomit green bile (a sign of intestinal blockage), and if your child is otherwise breathing and behaving normally, says Dr. Beno. But your pediatrician may still want to order an X-ray to locate the object and determine whether to wait for it to come out the other end or have it removed immediately. If your baby is coughing, he may cough out the object by himself. You can help the process along by leaning him forward. If his airway is completely blocked, give him five sharp blows between his shoulders. If you can see the object, try to remove it, but don't do a blind finger sweep. "That can actually push the object even farther down," explains Dr. Brown.

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