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Most Common Infant Illnesses (And How to Prevent Them)

It’s hard for any parent when their child gets sick, but it’s even harder when they’re an infant. Even the healthiest babies will come down with a bug at some point. Without a fully developed immune system, it’s hard for your baby to fight off germs that older children and adults can easily overcome.

Luckily, most infant illnesses are easily treated. When you know what to be on the lookout for, you can spot symptoms before they reach their worst point. Armed with more knowledge, you can get your baby to the doctor and on the way to feeling better.

When you have a sick infant, you need a great primary care team on your side. At Arlington Family Practice, we have you covered. Led by Dr. Ann Morvai, we know how to treat your infant with care and expertise.

On infant illnesses

It’s gross if you think about it, but you interact with a whole host of germs on a daily basis. For adults and older children, this is not a big deal most of the time. You’ve built up immunity to common germs, and your body can fight off most minor illnesses.

Your infant's immune system hasn't been exposed to many infections and is therefore far more prone to illnesses. Add to that fact that babies and toddlers love to touch everything and put things in their mouth, and you have the recipe for a lot of sick days.


Respiratory Syncytial Virus affects the lungs and respiratory tract. In most cases, the symptoms are relatively minor and mirror those of a cold – runny nose, decreased appetite, coughing, sneezing, and/or a low grade fever.

RSV is most dangerous for preemies and children with compromised immune systems or chronic health conditions. RSV can quickly turn into bronchitis or pneumonia in children who aren’t able to fight it.

In normal cases, you can treat RSV like any other virus – treat the symptoms and wait out the virus. It will normally clear up in about a week. It’s time to go to the doctor when you notice any of the following:

If the above are accompanied by a bluish tint to the skin, a sign that your baby isn’t getting enough oxygen, head to the ER.

To prevent RSV, wash your hands thoroughly, don’t share eating or drinking utensils with those infected, and avoid hugs and kisses until the illness has passed.


Nothing can turn your day upside down like the sudden onset of gastroenteritis, aka the stomach bug. The symptoms of this viral illness are hard to miss – vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Although everyone is susceptible, children under five are the most likely to come down with gastroenteritis.

As with many other viruses, you can only treat the symptoms of gastroenteritis. The virus itself lasts a few days. During that time, rest and lots of liquid are in order. Dehydration and weakness may be a sign that you should add Pedialyte® to that list. If your infant can keep food down, try bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast (the BRAT diet).

Ear Infections

Although there are three types of ear infections, Acute Otitis Media is the most common. This infection occurs in the middle ear, which typically affects younger children as portions of their middle ear are still developing and therefore more susceptible to retaining fluid. Ear infections are frustrating for parents to deal with as they often reappear just when you think you’ve gotten rid of them. Symptoms other than ear pain include:

Many ear infections resolve on their own, but amoxicillin is used to treat severe infections.

Preventing an ear infection often means preventing other illnesses, like the flu. Any upper respiratory issue can spread easily to the ear if not well-treated. Additionally, avoid exposing your child to cigarette smoke, make sure they’re up-to-date on immunizations, and never put your baby to bed with a bottle.

Is your child feeling ill? We can help. Call or book an appointment at our Arlington office today.

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