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 figure out the type of cry. It helps to go through a mental checklist of what might be wrong and to make sure that your child is safe and cared for. But remember that there may be nothing bothering your child. 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 knowing the cause of a young child's cry. A young child will often have different kinds of cries.
In rare cases, crying may point to a serious illness or injury. This type of crying usually lasts much longer than normal, and your baby may not be acting normally.
Crying can be very frustrating for a parent or caregiver. But never shake or harm your child. Shaking a child in anger or playing rough, such as throwing a child into the air, can injure the brain. Abusive head trauma needs to be reported to your doctor. If you find that you are losing patience or are afraid that you may hurt your child:
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.
Babies and young children often have several symptoms of shock. These 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.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
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 a child's crying. Over time you will understand what your child needs and know how to care for them.
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:
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 after breastfeeding is going well. If your child continues to cry after you have tried home treatment, place them in a safe, quiet place and leave them alone for 15 to 20 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 nonprescription medicines or herbal remedies as a comfort measure. Products with alcohol or sugar in them are not recommended.
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 them, can cause abusive head trauma. If you find that you are losing patience or are afraid that you may hurt your child:
If you are concerned that your child's crying is because of a more serious illness or injury, your child may need to be checked by a doctor.
Small children sometimes cry to release tension when they are overtired or overstimulated. This happens when they have been held by a lot of people in a short amount of time or exposed to lots of noise, bright lights, loud voices, or music.
You can protect your child from becoming overtired by keeping a regular routine for meals, naps, and play times.
If your child is crying because they are overtired or overstimulated, try the following:
Turn down the lights and ask others not to bother your child.
Turn on a continuous, monotonous sound, such as a vacuum cleaner or a recording of ocean waves. Sometimes these sounds soothe and relax a child.
Place your child in a safe place, close the door, and set a kitchen timer for 10 to 15 minutes. If your child has not settled down after 10 to 15 minutes, check to see whether there is another reason for their crying.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
Current as of: October 6, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor MD - Emergency Medicine & David Messenger MD - Emergency Medicine, Critical Care Medicine
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