Newborns: Subtle Symptoms of Illness

A newborn is a baby less than 1 month old. He or she mainly eats, sleeps, cries a little, and needs a lot of love and his or her diapers changed frequently. If a newborn is ill, the symptoms can be subtle. Also, an ill newborn can very quickly get much sicker. If a newborn is sick at all, the illness can be serious.

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider


  • Your baby is less than 1 month old and sick in any way (for example, with a cough or diarrhea) or has any of the following symptoms:
  • Poor feeding behavior or a sudden change in feeding behavior (has to be repeatedly awakened to feed or can’t stay awake for feedings)
  • Has a poor suck or inability to sustain sucking
  • Sweats during feedings
  • Sleeps excessively–for instance, past feeding times.
  • Cries excessively
  • Unusual crying, moaning, grunting
  • Change in muscle tone (weak or limp)
  • Decreased activity or movement
  • Change in color (pale, bluish or grey)
  • Your newborn sleeps excessively—for instance, past feeding times.
  • Your newborn cries excessively.
  • Your newborn develops a fever over 100.4°F (38°C) measured rectally, or over 99°F (37.2°C) measured in the armpit. *
  • Your newborn’s temperature drops below 96.8°F (36°C) measured rectally, or 95.4°F (35.5°C) measured in the armpit. *
  • You have other urgent questions.

* In general, do not take an infant’s temperature unless he or she feels hot or looks sick.

Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2009-06-19
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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