Excerpted from

Baby Body Signs; The Head to Toe Guide to Your Child's Health: from Birth Through the Toddler Years

By ,

MOST NEW PARENTS-WHETHER FIRST-TIME moms and dads or not - are understandably a bit paranoid about the health of their babies. Babies are tiny, fragile, and helpless beings. If they're not feeling well or are in pain, they can't tell anyone what's bothering them or where it hurts. They are totally dependent on doctors, parents, grandparents, nannies, babysitters, and other caregivers for their well-being.

We all know the classic signs of a sick baby: fever, diarrhea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, and listlessness, among others. But not all babies who have medical problems display such obvious signs. Rather, a baby who doesn't feel well or is in pain may cry, grimace, fuss, act irritable, or refuse to eat. Of course, these behaviors may simply indicate that the baby is overtired, wet, or cold. To complicate matters further, there are myriad medical problems ranging from mild to serious that cause neither pain nor discomfort. A baby may smile, laugh, coo, babble, play, and appear the picture of health, all while there is something medically amiss.

Many medical conditions may, in fact, manifest themselves with subtle signs that a caregiver can easily overlook or deem too insignificant for a doctor's attention. And some of these signs may portend something serious. For example, dark lip freckles can be a totally normal occurrence, or they can be one of the first warning signs of Peutz-Jegbers syndrome, a rare, potentially serious genetic condition (see Chapter 8). And while a white forelock may merely mean a baby's been out in the sun too long without a hat, it can be the hallmark of another rare, potentially serious medical condition called Waardenburg syndrome (see Chapter 2). On the other hand, signs that look rather scary can be totally benign and nothing at all to worry about. Parents may panic if their baby has yellow stools, thinking that it signals jaundice. But all healthy infants have yellowish stools; rather, it's pale ones that can be a warning of jaundice (see Chapter 10).

Pediatricians and other healthcare providers are well versed at detecting both subtle and not-so-subtle signs of illness. When a baby goes in for a checkup, the doctor will look at the baby's head, face, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, torso, and skin, and even inside his or her diaper. The doctor will also ask the parents about the baby's bowel movements and bladder habits, among other things.

But even the most in-depth examinations are likely to take less than an hour. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, nannies, and other caregivers spend much more time with babies than doctors do. So they're often the first to notice something out of the ordinary with a baby - whether its suspicious bumps on the eyes or ears, excess drool, brittle hair, or some other unusual or unsightly sign. If they pay close attention, these caregivers too can learn how to identify and interpret the signs that may prove serious - transforming their parental paranoia into power. This is where Baby Body Signs comes in.

What's The Difference Between
A Body Sign And A Symptom?

The terms signs and symptoms are often used interchangeably. However, medically speaking, a sign is objective evidence of a disease or disorder. It is noticeable and describable by others, but not necessarily by the person with the sign. For example, a bulging belly button, which may be a sign of a hernia (see Chapter 7), can easily be spotted by doctors, parents, or anyone else who's looking. A symptom, on the other hand, is subjective and can be described only by the person experiencing it. While older children can tell someone about their symptoms - such as a stomachache or blurred vision - babies can't.

How Can You Detect
A Baby's Body Signs?

Parents and other caregivers can use all of their 5 senses to detect a baby's body signs, which may provide important clues to what - if anything - is medically amiss with the baby.

Baby Body Signs will help you learn how to:

  • Look for clues in or on a baby's head, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, skin, torso, genitals, and body wastes

  • Listen to a baby's cries, stomach sounds, and breathing patterns and sounds for signs of problems

  • Touch a baby to see if he or she has sweaty skin, a fast heartbeat, or a change in weight

  • Sniff out problems by smelling a baby's breath, pee, and poop

  • And even taste a baby's skin for telltale signs of certain disorders

What Baby Body Signs Covers

Baby Body Signs focuses on babies from birth through the toddler years, the time when they are still preverbal and can't clearly communicate with others. Divided into 10 chapters, it covers a baby from head to toe, and everything in between. In order of appearance, the chapters address signs related to a baby's:

  • Head and neck
  • Hair and scalp
  • Eyes
  • Ears
  • Nose
  • Mouth, tongue, and teeth
  • Torso and limbs
  • Skin
  • Genitals
  • Body wastes

Some signs it covers that may - or may not - mean trouble include:

  • Bulging soft spots
  • Uncombable hair
  • Double pupils
  • Sun sneezing
  • Triple nipples
  • Pigeon toes
  • Walking on tippy toes
  • Belly button bump
  • Blue birthmarks
  • Stork bites
  • Crooked penis
  • Vaginal tags
  • Sweet pee
  • Green poop

All the medical information in Baby Body Signs has been vetted by the Baby Body Signs Panel of Medical Experts, which consists of 11 pediatricians and other doctors who specialize in pediatric issues. These doctors are from top medical centers across the United States, and are listed along with their medical affiliations following this introduction.

Tags: Pediatrics & Child Psychology

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