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Crying is your child's first way of communicating. The amount of time your baby spends crying usually increases from birth until your baby is about 6 weeks old, when your baby may cry between 1 and 5 hours out of 24. After 6 weeks of age, your baby will gradually cry less as he or she finds other ways of communicating or consoling himself or herself. However, some young children seem to cry for no obvious reason. About 1 in 5 children have daily crying spells of 15 minutes to an hour, often in the evening.
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:
Check your child's symptoms to decide if and when your child should see a doctor.
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.
Call911or other emergency services now.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
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.
Pain in children 3 years and older
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
A baby that is extremely sick:
A baby that is sick (but not extremely sick):
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly after a sudden illness or injury.
Symptoms of shock in a child may include:
Severe trouble breathing means:
Moderate trouble breathing means:
Mild trouble breathing means:
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
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.
Symptoms of difficulty breathing in a baby or young child can range from mild to severe. For example:
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
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, offering a pacifier, or breast-feeding. 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 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.
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:
|Primary Medical Reviewer||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine|
|Last Revised||February 18, 2013|
Last Revised: February 18, 2013
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