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Common Health Problems in Infants

Read about some common health conditions affecting newborns that require little or no treatment.
Common Health Problems in Infants

Common Health Problems in Infants

There are many health problems that affect children and require treatment, such as eczema, urinary tract infections, and asthma. In addition, there are other conditions that often go away without treatment. These include things like blocked tear ducts, cradle cap, hair loss, acrocyanosis, and umbilical hernia. Although these problems are "normal," they sometimes may require treatment, so you should talk to your pediatrician when they occur.

Blocked Tear Ducts

Tears drain from the inner corner of the eye to the nose through the nasolacrimal ducts. In some infants, this duct is blocked, so tears can't drain to the nose. Instead, the eye tears a lot. Other symptoms can include some redness around the eye and a yellowish discharge from the affected eye.

In most cases, the tear duct will open up on its own by the time your baby is a year old. This can be helped by massaging the side of the nose where the tear duct is. If the tear duct doesn't eventually open up on its own, or if your child's tear duct gets frequently infected, then your pediatrician can use a probe to open it up.

E Alert

Each of these "normal" conditions can be confused with a more serious condition or can become serious themselves. For example, instead of cradle cap, thick scale on your baby's head could be a sign of a fungal infection. Talk to your pediatrician before deciding that these things really are normal.

Cradle Cap

Cradle cap is often more distressing for parents than for the babies who have it. The thick, yellow scale or flaky, dry skin that accompanies cradle cap doesn't look normal, but it usually is not as bad as it looks. Most babies don't develop any symptoms, the cradle cap doesn't bother them, and it eventually goes away on its own.

If it does bother you or your child, though, you can treat it. The most common treatment involves simply massaging baby oil into the affected areas and then using a soft brush to loosen and remove the scales. More persistent cases might respond to a medicated shampoo, like Selsun Blue or Nizoral AD, used a few times a week. Talk to your pediatrician if the rash seems very itchy or if your baby also has an itchy rash all over the rest of his body.

Hair Loss

There are different types of hair loss, or alopecia, that can affect your baby. One of the most common is traction alopecia, which results from the back of your baby's head rubbing against surfaces he lies on. The hair in this area will eventually grow back once your baby is sitting up more and rolling over.

Another type of normal hair loss that affects infants is called telogen effluvium, and involves the process by which baby hairs fall out. These hairs are eventually replaced by mature hairs after a few months.


Parents expect their baby's skin to have a nice pink color. After all, pink is a sign of health and that your baby is getting enough oxygen. Many babies can normally have blue hands and feet at times, though. This is a sign of an immature circulatory system and is different from the central cyanosis that can accompany heart and breathing problems. It is not normal if your baby's chest, lips, or tongue also look blue.

Umbilical Hernia

When an infant has an umbilical hernia, his belly button will protrude out at times. It often becomes worse when he strains or cries, and then goes back in if you push on it or when he relaxes. Although impressive looking, especially when they are large, umbilical hernias almost always go away on their own, though sometimes not until your child is four or five years old.

Folk remedies, such as taping a coin to hold the hernia in, aren't helpful and should be avoided. If the hernia is very large or isn't improving at all over time, surgical correction might be done earlier than age five years. You should also call your pediatrician if the hernia seems stuck out or is painful.

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