When to Take Baby to the ER

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Updated March 2, 2017
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When baby’s sick or hurt, it’s hard to know what to do. Do you wait and see if baby gets better? Or rush to the emergency room? R Baby Foundation told us some important signs that it’s time to go the hospital — now! — and how to keep baby safe once you get there.

*_Crying Change
*_Sure, it’s hard to tell if your baby is crying just because he’s colicky or cranky or if there’s something more serious going on. But if the crying is suddenly extremely different from baby’s usual, he’s probably trying to tell you something’s wrong. A baby who has changed from his/her normal behavior and is inconsolable despite the usual attempts to soothe may be sick.

*_Strange Skin Color
*_Changes in your baby’s skin color can be a sign that something isn’t quite right. Specific changes to look out for include: turning blue, especially around the lips or face; yellow, pale or mottled skin (or any other changes from your baby’s normal skin tone); or a rapidly spreading rash.

*_Weak or Limp Muscles
*_Infants aren’t known to be super buff, but you know how baby’s little muscles usually work — baby has a specific strength in his grip and supports himself a certain way. If this changes or if your baby feels unusually limp, weak or different from “normal,” there could be something seriously wrong.

*_Sudden Sleep-Pattern Switch
*_Sleep-pattern changes that might indicate a problem with your newborn include your baby’s sleeping much more than usual or acting less alert, or if he/she is difficult to wake.

*_Unusual Breathing
*_Changes in breathing patterns, including the following, are especially concerning: slow or rapid breathing, irregular breathing patterns, flaring nostrils, belly or ribs moving unusually with breathing, labored breathing, or not breathing at all. Go to the hospital.

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Important Tips for Parents

_Right Now _Before you have an emergency, it’s important to prepare by researching your nearest pediatric emergency department. That way you’ll know exactly where to go and how to get there when it’s time.

When You’re at the ER Make sure your child is seen by a pediatric specialist. And don’t be shy. Protect and advocate for your child by speaking up about any concerns you have. And ask for a second opinion if something doesn’t feel right.

Provided by Audrey Paul, MD, PhD, FACEP; Karen Goodman, MD; and Catherine Verow, MS, CCLS, of Mt. Sinai Hospital. This information is intended to empower and inform your decisions. Its development was funded through a grant from R Baby Foundation.

Join R Baby’s campaign to make sure your hospital is ready for your child. Sign and share the R Baby Petition at

Click here to learn more about the R Baby Foundation.

*_About R Baby Foundation
*_R Baby Foundation ( is the first and only not-for-profit foundation uniquely focused on saving babies’ lives through improving pediatric emergency care. R Baby Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that babies, including those in the first month of life suffering from viral infections and other infectious diseases, receive the highest quality of care and service through supporting life-saving pediatric training, education, research, treatment and equipment.

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