Motherhood: Health Planning for Your Newborn Baby

When Your Baby's Not Well

No matter how careful new parents are, babies inevitably come down with colds, run fevers or exhibit a symptom that will require a "sick" visit to their practitioner. These visits are shorter visits, arise unexpectedly and are in addition to your baby's well visits.

When initially interviewing practices, it is important to find out if they accept same-day sick visits or if your child will have to wait a day or two. Under what circumstances, if any, will they see your child immediately? You might also want to find out what the practice advises if an emergency occurs in the middle of the night or on a weekend. Will you be able to talk to your health care provider, or will you be speaking with an answering service? Will you be able to be seen in the office after hours, or will you have to go to the emergency room? Which emergency room do they recommend if you have to go there?

You will also want to make sure that separate waiting areas are available for sick and well children or that the appointments are scheduled at different times of the day. You don't want your well child around sick children, and vice versa.

When your child isn't well and you phone for an appointment, your practitioner will want to know what symptoms your baby has been having and for how long. Take your baby's temperature before you call, and note any other symptoms. (If your baby is three months old or younger and has a rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees F or above, he must be seen right away).


Health care practitioners today nearly all agree that the benefits of scheduled immunizations far outweigh the risks and recommend that babies receive their vaccines. Our children are far healthier today because of these vaccines. They help protect children and adults from diseases that used to kill thousands every year. Slight reactions, such as a mild fever or irritability, can commonly occur after immunization, but usually are not serious. The recommended schedule may vary depending on your practice.

The common immunizations given are:

  • DTaP for diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis given at 2, 4 and 6 months with boosters given at 15 months and 4 to 6 years.
  • Hib vaccine prevents infection from bacteria that cause meningitis and other serious infections in children. It is given at 2, 4, 6 and at 12 to 15 months. (Hib is not recommended to be given between 4 and 6 years.)
  • Polio vaccine is given at 2, 4 and 18 months with a booster at 4 to 6 years of age.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine is now given roughly between 2 days to 2 weeks and at 3 and 9 months to prevent this potentially serious viral liver infection.
  • Varicella vaccine is given at 12 months to prevent chicken pox.
  • Prevnar is given to prevent pneumococcal disease, the leading cause of bacterial meningitis, a large number of blood infections, pneumonia and, occasionally, ear infections, which are often resistant to multiple antibiotics. This is usually given at 2, 4 and 6 months with a booster at 18 months.
  • MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) is given at 12 months and a booster between 4 and 6 years.
  • Influenza vaccine is now recommended for infants 6 to 23 months during the flu season (October through March). They need to receive 2 doses the first season, a month apart.

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