Common Newborn Ailments
Bringing a new baby home from the hospital is a very exciting time. It can also be pretty nerve-racking, especially for first-time moms. Rest assured that your baby is probably perfectly healthy. But keep in mind that there are some common conditions that your baby may experience. Most are nothing to worry too much about, but knowing what to expect can help you determine whether your baby might need medical attention. Read on for eight common conditions to find out what causes them, what to look for, and what treatment might be required. Then relax and enjoy your little one!
"Physiologic jaundice" is an indicator that a baby's blood contains an excess amount of bilirubin, a chemical formed during the normal breakdown of old red blood cells. We all have some bilirubin in our blood, but newborns usually have higher levels because their young immune system takes longer to process the extra red blood cells present at birth.
Signs: A yellowish tint to the skin that usually appears first on the face and then on the chest, abdomen, and legs. To test, gently press on your baby's nose, forehead, or thigh to see if the skin beneath your finger appears yellow.
Treatment: Jaundice usually corrects itself within a few days (though it may worsen before it gets better). If it doesn't, you child's pediatrician may do a blood test to determine the bilirubin level. If the level is extremely high and goes untreated, there is a chance that damage to the nervous system can occur. Your doctor may recommend phototherapy -- a treatment in which your baby is placed under special fluorescent-type lights for a day or two.
Thrush is a common yeast infection.
Signs: White patches in the mouth
Treatment: Your pediatrician will most likely prescribe an oral antifungal medication.
A heart murmur is a noise heard between the beats of the heart. By listening to the heartbeat, doctors can usually classify the murmur by location and timing. Heart murmurs are extremely common, and almost always turn out to be harmless.
Signs: A doctor will detect the heart murmur while listening to a baby's heart.
Treatment: Normal or "innocent" heart murmurs usually don't require any treatment. If your child's pediatrician is concerned, though, he may refer you to a pediatric cardiologist for special tests.
Redness, greasy scales, and heavy flaking on the scalp are signs of cradle cap -- a condition caused by the buildup of oil and the shedding of skin cells. It looks unattractive, but isn't harmful to your baby.
Signs: Scaly patches of skin cells and/or redness appear on the scalp.
Treatment: You can treat cradle cap yourself by washing your baby's head with a mild baby shampoo more frequently than normal. Soft brushing can also help remove the scales. If this doesn't work, consult your pediatrician. She may prescribe a stronger shampoo or an ointment.
Baby acne or pimples that break out on the face, typically during the fourth or fifth week of life, are harmless. Doctors believe the acne is caused by pregnancy hormones stimulating the oil glands in the skin.
Signs: Baby acne looks similar to adult acne.
Treatment: Gently wash your baby's face with mild baby soap once a day. Avoid laundering the crib sheets in harsh detergents.
The stump of your baby's umbilical cord should dry up and fall off within a few weeks of birth. On occasion, the base of the cord forms a growth called a granuloma.
Signs: The area around the umbilical cord may be moist and swell slightly. The area may be yellowish and could ooze or bleed a little bit.
Treatment: Your pediatrician can treat the growth with silver nitrate to dry it out. If that doesn't work, it may have to be removed in a minor procedure.
An umbilical hernia is caused by a small hole in the abdominal wall that allows tissue to bulge out when there's pressure inside the abdomen (when a baby cries or strains, for example).
Signs: Your baby's umbilical cord seems to push outward when he cries.
Treatment: Most umbilical hernias heal themselves in the first 12 to 18 months. If your child's hernia doesn't heal by the time he enters school, your pediatrician may suggest minor surgery.
Blocked Tear Ducts
A harmless condition, blocked tear ducts occur when babies are born with one or both of their tear ducts partially or fully blocked. Tear ducts usually open by the time a baby is 2 weeks old.
Signs: Water tearing and/or sticky mucus in the corner of the eye.
Treatment: The ducts will usually open without treatment, but your doctor may recommend gently massaging the inner corner of the eye to help them open.
The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.