Home » How to tell if your child may be sick – signs to look out for

How to tell if your child may be sick – signs to look out for

It’s usually very difficult to tell whether a child is sick or not, especially when they are still very young and can only express themselves through crying.  Many of us are often at a loss on how tell to if your child may be sick. So here are a few cues.

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Observe the child’s appearance

Children typically appear alert, radiant, and happy with a twinkle in their eyes. Healthy child eyes are white and lively. If this expression changes, that means trouble, whether mild or severe. A slight indication of interest on the face accompanied by sleepy dull eyes should make you worried, while blank stares and glassy looks may indicate a serious illness. In that case, you might want to check up with a good eye glass specialist for advice. 

Excessive crying 

Infants sometimes cry without reason. However, excessive crying may be a pointer to some underlying health conditions. Babies need lots of attention, comfort, and care. But if you have fed, changed, burped, and kept the baby warm but the baby won’t stop crying, it means something may be amiss. 

By now, you must be familiar with your baby’s crying pattern. So watch out for abnormal crying such as shrieking, whining, weak crying sounds, and frequent crying. You know it is time to get a doctor when the baby moans and won’t stop crying while being comforted. 

Activity level

A healthy baby is playful and cheerful with lots of activities like head movements, playing with their arms, and kicking with their legs. They also have normal sleeping patterns, which the mother should already have observed – abnormal sleeping patterns include excessive wakefulness or sleep. 

For example, the baby might stay awake for more hours than usual, or you have to wake them up to feed. Lack of interest in playing accompanied by floppy limbs or loose limb muscles may indicate a severe health problem.


A healthy baby has favourite foods and drinks, which they usually ask for from time to time. A sick child will be disinterested in feeding and will eat or drink very little. This is an obvious sign of how to tell if your child may be sick. They may suck weakly or suck for a shorter period than usual and sweat while at it. You should be really worried if the child completely refuses to eat and resorts to pushing food away.

Another tell-tale sign of sickness is sputtering or coughing during mealtime. Usually, infants will sputter or cough before they adapt to the feeding routine. However, regular gagging or coughing while feeding may indicate the baby has a digestive system or lung problem.


Under normal circumstances, children’s pee bears a light-yellow color. They often pee an average of seven times a day which means you should have eight or six wet nappies daily. Fewer nappies mean decreased urination frequency, a sign of dehydration evidenced by a dry mouth. Give the child warm drinking water frequently. If the change in urine colour and frequency persists or the child has fewer tears and spit than usual, see a doctor immediately. 


Jaundice is the yellowish tinge on children’s skin, especially on newborns, caused by the bilirubin build in the blood. You don’t have to worry much about mild jaundice. However, seek immediate medical help if jaundice spreads to the rest of the body, as seen in the face, chest, abdomen, and finally, to the legs.


Dull appearance, excessive crying even when comforted, refusal to feed, abnormal urine colour, and jaundice are ways to tell the child is sick. Please seek medical advice.

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