Preventing and Recognizing Illness

Before discharging the infant from the hospital, it is helpful to discuss with caregivers specific examples of when to be concerned about serious illness and how they can reach their family physician for questions or concerns during and after normal business hours. Parents should be encouraged to limit exposure of the infant to adults or children who are sick, especially in the first few months of life. It is good practice to ask family and friends to wash their hands before handling the newborn infant to prevent the spread of disease.

Parents can learn to take an infant's axillary temperature, recognize respiratory retractions, identify infection around the umbilicus or circumcision, and tell the difference between normal and abnormal muscle tone. Some normal infant behavior, such as sneezing, hiccups, effortless regurgitation after feeding, the startle reflex, and irregular breathing, can cause concern in parents. Anticipating and discussing these concerns can help put parents at ease.

See discussions of the following areas online at www.

• Early Care of the Well Newborn after Hospital Discharge

• Postpartum Major Depression

• Care of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Graduate

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