Caregivers Plus Health Library

Common Infant and Newborn Problems

It is hard when your baby is sick. Common health problems in babies include colds, coughs, fevers, and vomiting. Babies also commonly have skin problems, like diaper rash or cradle cap.

Many of these problems are not serious. It is important to know how to help your sick baby, and to know the warning signs for more serious problems. Trust your intuition – if you are worried about your baby, call your health care provider right away.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019)

COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) is an illness caused by a virus. This virus is a new coronavirus that has spread throughout the world. It is thought to spread mainly through close contact from person to person. On this page, you’ll find links to resources on important issues such as symptoms, risks, and how you can protect yourself and your family.

We also have pages on COVID-19 testing and vaccines, including the vaccines that have been authorized in the United States and the others that are still in progress.

Delirium

What is delirium?

Delirium is a mental state in which you are confused, disoriented, and not able to think or remember clearly. It usually starts suddenly. It is often temporary and treatable.

There are three types of delirium:

  • Hypoactive, where you are not active and seem sleepy, tired, or depressed
  • Hyperactive, where you are restless or agitated
  • Mixed, where you change back and forth between being hypoactive and hyperactive

What causes delirium?

There are many different problems that can cause delirium. Some of the more common causes include

  • Alcohol or drugs, either from intoxication or withdrawal. This includes a serious type of alcohol withdrawal syndrome called delirium tremens. It usually happens to people who stop drinking after years of alcohol abuse.
  • Dehydration and electrolyte imbalances
  • Dementia
  • Hospitalization, especially in intensive care
  • Infections, such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and the flu
  • Medicines. This could be a side effect of a medicine, such as sedatives or opioids. Or it could be withdrawal after stopping a medicine.
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Organ failure, such as kidney or liver failure
  • Poisoning
  • Serious illnesses
  • Severe pain
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Surgeries, including reactions to anesthesia

Who is at risk for delirium?

Certain factors put you at risk for delirium, including

  • Being in a hospital or nursing home
  • Dementia
  • Having a serious illness or more than one illness
  • Having an infection
  • Older age
  • Surgery
  • Taking medicines that affect the mind or behavior
  • Taking high doses of pain medicines, such as opioids

What are the symptoms of delirium?

The symptoms of delirium usually start suddenly, over a few hours or a few days. They often come and go. The most common symptoms include

  • Changes in alertness (usually more alert in the morning, less at night)
  • Changing levels of consciousness
  • Confusion
  • Disorganized thinking, talking in a way that doesn’t make sense
  • Disrupted sleep patterns, sleepiness
  • Emotional changes: anger, agitation, depression, irritability, overexcitement
  • Hallucinations and delusions
  • Incontinence
  • Memory problems, especially with short-term memory
  • Trouble concentrating

How is delirium diagnosed?

Your health care provider may use many tools to make a diagnosis:

  • A medical history, which includes asking about your symptoms
  • Physical and neurological exams
  • Mental status testing
  • Lab and diagnostic imaging tests

Delirium and dementia have similar symptoms, so it can be hard to tell them apart. They can also occur together. Delirium starts suddenly and can cause hallucinations. The symptoms may get better or worse and can last for hours or weeks. On the other hand, dementia develops slowly and does not cause hallucinations. The symptoms are stable and may last for months or years.What are the treatments for delirium?

Treatment of delirium focuses on the causes and symptoms of delirium. The first step is to identify the cause. Often, treating the cause will lead to a full recovery. The recovery may take some time – weeks or sometimes even months. In the meantime, there may be treatments to manage the symptoms, such as

  • Controlling the environment, which includes making sure that the room is quiet and well-lit, having clocks or calendars in view, and having family members around
  • Medicines, including those that control aggression or agitation and pain relievers if there is pain
  • If needed, making sure that the person has a hearing aid, glasses, or other devices for communication

Can delirium be prevented?

Treating the conditions that can cause delirium may reduce the risk of getting it. Hospitals can help lower the risk of delirium by avoiding sedatives and making sure that the room is kept quiet, calm, and well-lit. It can also help to have family members around and to have the same staff members treat the person.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods you eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not make insulin. With type 2 diabetes, the more common type, your body does not make or use insulin well. Without enough insulin, the glucose stays in your blood. You can also have prediabetes. This means that your blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes. Having prediabetes puts you at a higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Over time, having too much glucose in your blood can cause serious problems. It can damage your eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Diabetes can also cause heart disease, stroke and even the need to remove a limb. Pregnant women can also get diabetes, called gestational diabetes.

Blood tests can show if you have diabetes. One type of test, the A1C, can also check on how you are managing your diabetes. Exercise, weight control and sticking to your meal plan can help control your diabetes. You should also monitor your blood glucose level and take medicine if prescribed.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Diarrhea

What is diarrhea?

Diarrhea is loose, watery stools (bowel movements). You have diarrhea if you have loose stools three or more times in one day. Acute diarrhea is diarrhea that lasts a short time. It is a common problem. It usually lasts about one or two days, but it may last longer. Then it goes away on its own.

Diarrhea lasting more than a few days may be a sign of a more serious problem. Chronic diarrhea — diarrhea that lasts at least four weeks — can be a symptom of a chronic disease. Chronic diarrhea symptoms may be continual, or they may come and go.What causes diarrhea?

The most common causes of diarrhea include

  • Bacteria from contaminated food or water
  • Viruses such as the flu, norovirus, or rotavirus . Rotavirus is the most common cause of acute diarrhea in children.
  • Parasites, which are tiny organisms found in contaminated food or water
  • Medicines such as antibiotics, cancer drugs, and antacids that contain magnesium
  • Food intolerances and sensitivities, which are problems digesting certain ingredients or foods. An example is lactose intolerance.
  • Diseases that affect the stomach, small intestine, or colon, such as Crohn’s disease
  • Problems with how the colon functions, such as irritable bowel syndrome

Some people also get diarrhea after stomach surgery, because sometimes the surgeries can cause food to move through your digestive system more quickly.

Sometimes no cause can be found. If your diarrhea goes away within a few days, finding the cause is usually not necessary.Who is at risk for diarrhea?

People of all ages can get diarrhea. On average, adults In the United States have acute diarrhea once a year. Young children have it an average of twice a year.

People who visit developing countries are at risk for traveler’s diarrhea. It is caused by consuming contaminated food or water.What other symptoms might I have with diarrhea?

Other possible symptoms of diarrhea include

  • Cramps or pain in the abdomen
  • An urgent need to use the bathroom
  • Loss of bowel control

If a virus or bacteria is the cause of your diarrhea, you may also have a fever, chills, and bloody stools.

Diarrhea can cause dehydration, which means that your body does not have enough fluid to work properly. Dehydration can be serious, especially for children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems.When do I need to see a health care provider for diarrhea?

Although it is usually not harmful, diarrhea can become dangerous or signal a more serious problem. Contact your health care provider if you have

  • Signs of dehydration
  • Diarrhea for more than 2 days, if you are an adult. For children, contact the provider if it lasts more than 24 hours.
  • Severe pain in your abdomen or rectum (for adults)
  • A fever of 102 degrees or higher
  • Stools containing blood or pus
  • Stools that are black and tarry

If children have diarrhea, parents or caregivers should not hesitate to call a health care provider. Diarrhea can be especially dangerous in newborns and infants.How is the cause of diarrhea diagnosed?

To find the cause of diarrhea, your health care provider may

  • Do a physical exam
  • Ask about any medicines you are taking
  • Test your stool or blood to look for bacteria, parasites, or other signs of disease or infection
  • Ask you to stop eating certain foods to see whether your diarrhea goes away

If you have chronic diarrhea, your health care provider may perform other tests to look for signs of disease.What are the treatments for diarrhea?

Diarrhea is treated by replacing lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. Depending on the cause of the problem, you may need medicines to stop the diarrhea or treat an infection.

Adults with diarrhea should drink water, fruit juices, sports drinks, sodas without caffeine, and salty broths. As your symptoms improve, you can eat soft, bland food.

Children with diarrhea should be given oral rehydration solutions to replace lost fluids and electrolytes.Can diarrhea be prevented?

Two types of diarrhea can be prevented – rotavirus diarrhea and traveler’s diarrhea. There are vaccines for rotavirus. They are given to babies in two or three doses.

You can help prevent traveler’s diarrhea by being careful about what you eat and drink when you are in developing countries:

  • Use only bottled or purified water for drinking, making ice cubes, and brushing your teeth
  • If you do use tap water, boil it or use iodine tablets
  • Make sure that the cooked food you eat is fully cooked and served hot
  • Avoid unwashed or unpeeled raw fruits and vegetables

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

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