Home > Health Library > Crying, Age 3 and Younger
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.
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:
conditions can cause a young child to cry, such as
inguinal hernia, or
Check your child's symptoms to decide if and when
your child should see a doctor.
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
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.
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.
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical
Based on your answers, you need
Call911or other emergency services now.
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 may need care soon. The
problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly
after a sudden illness or injury.
Symptoms of shock in a child may include:
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.
A baby that is extremely sick:
A baby that is sick (but not extremely
Severe trouble breathing means:
Moderate trouble breathing means:
Mild trouble breathing means:
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
Symptoms of difficulty breathing in a baby or young child can range from mild to severe. For example:
Pain in children 3 years and older
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.
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:
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, breast-feeding, or offering a pacifier after breast-feeding is going well. 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.
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:
Current as of:
June 4, 2014
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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