Crying lets others know when a young child is hungry, wet, tired, too warm, too cold, lonely, or in pain. If your child is crying, try to identify the type of cry. It helps to go through a mental checklist of what might be wrong—but remember that there may be nothing bothering your child—and to make sure your child is safe and cared for. As parents or caregivers respond to the young child's other signals (such as whimpering, facial expressions, and wiggling), the child will usually cry less.
Parents and caregivers become better over time at identifying the young child's cry. A young child will often have different kinds of cries.
On rare occasions, crying may point to a serious illness or injury. Crying caused by a serious illness or injury usually lasts much longer than normal and your baby may not be acting normally.
Crying can be very frustrating for a parent or caregiver. Do not get angry at your child for crying. Never shake or harm your child. Shaking a child in anger or playing rough, such as throwing him or her into the air, can injure the brain. Shaken baby syndrome needs to be reported to your doctor. If you find that you are losing patience or are afraid that you may hurt your child:
Certain medical conditions can cause a young child to cry, such as gastroesophageal reflux, inguinal hernia, or intussusception.
Check your child's symptoms to decide if and when your child should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
Symptoms of difficulty breathing in a baby or young child can range from mild to severe. For example:
Severe trouble breathing means:
Moderate trouble breathing means:
Mild trouble breathing means:
A baby that is extremely sick:
A baby that is sick (but not extremely sick):
You can use a small rubber bulb (called an aspirating bulb) to remove mucus from your baby's nose or mouth when a cold or allergies make it hard for the baby to eat, sleep, or breathe.
To use the bulb:
Don't do this more than 5 or 6 times a day. Doing it too often can make the congestion worse and can also cause the lining of the nose to swell or bleed.
Colic is an extreme type of crying in a baby between 3 weeks and 3 months of age. All babies cry, but a colicky baby will cry for hours at a time, no matter what you do.
During a crying episode, a colicky baby may cry loudly and continuously and be hard to comfort. The baby may get red in the face, clench the fists, and arch his or her back or pull the legs up to the belly.
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly after a sudden illness or injury.
Symptoms of shock in a child may include:
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Pain in children 3 years and older
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
or other emergency services now.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Crying is a normal part of your child's life. Stay as calm as possible during crying episodes. There are many different ways to approach your child's crying, and over time you will understand your child's needs and know how to care for him or her.
It may be helpful to keep a record of your child's crying to see whether there is a pattern that you can discuss with your child's doctor.
Use this checklist to help you figure out the reason for your child's crying and take action to eliminate the cause of the crying. Remember that the crying may be normal for your child. Ask yourself whether your child:
Young children may turn red or purple in the face when crying. A sick child may have pale, blue, or spots of bluish (mottled) skin and may be listless, unusually sleepy, or irritable. A sick child's cry may be weak and feeble or (in rare cases) high-pitched and piercing. If you think your child may be sick or hurt:
If you don't find a reason for your child's crying, try comforting techniques, such as rocking your baby, breastfeeding, or offering a pacifier once breastfeeding is going well. If your child continues to cry after you have tried home treatment, place him or her in a safe, quiet place and leave him or her alone for 10 to 15 minutes. Sometimes children can relax and soothe themselves. Be sure to stay close by.
Talk with your child's doctor before giving your child any non-prescription medicines or herbal remedies as a comfort measure. Products with alcohol or sugar in them are not recommended.
Do not get angry at your child for crying. Never shake or harm your child. Shaking a child in anger or playing rough, such as throwing a baby up into the air and catching him or her, can cause shaken baby syndrome. If you find that you are losing patience or are afraid that you may hurt your child:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
The following tips may help you care for your child and lessen the amount he or she cries.
Check with your doctor about giving your child acetaminophen before immunizations are given. Some doctors suggest this to decrease discomfort after a shot.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your child's condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineJohn Pope, MD - PediatricsAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerDavid Messenger, MD
Current as ofJanuary 31, 2018
Current as of: January 31, 2018
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
& John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & David Messenger, MD
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