Crying Child - 3 Months and Older

Disponible En Espanol

Care at Home

  • WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: * Your child is crying and fussing more than usual. But, if acting normal when not crying, the cause is probably not serious. * He could be coming down with an illness. Most often, that will become clear in a day or so. * He could be reacting to some changes in your home or child care setting. See if you can come up with some ideas. * At times, children can also go through a 'clingy phase' without a reason. * If the crying responds to comforting, it's not serious. * Here is some care advice that should help.
  • COMFORT: * Try to comfort your child by holding, rocking, or massage.
  • SLEEP: * If your child is tired, put him to bed. * If he needs to be held, hold him quietly in your arms. Sometimes, lying next to him will comfort him. * Some overtired infants need to cry themselves to sleep.
  • UNDRESS YOUR CHILD: * Sometimes part of the clothing is too tight or uncomfortable. * Also, check the skin for redness or swelling (such as an insect bite).
  • WHAT TO EXPECT: * Most fussiness with illnesses goes away when the illness does. * Fussiness may be due to family stress or change (such as new child care). Fussiness due to this cause lasts less than 1 week.
  • CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF: * Nonstop crying lasts more than 2 hours * Crying with an illness gets worse * Mild crying lasts more than 2 days * Your child becomes worse
  • STOP OVER-THE-COUNTER MEDICINES: * If your child is taking a cough or cold medicine, stop it. * The crying should stop within 4 hours. * Allergy medicines (such as Benadryl) can cause screaming and fussiness in some children. * Sudafed (a decongestant) can cause jitteriness and crying. * The FDA does not approve any of these medicines for children under 4 years old.
  • WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: * Normal children cry when they don't get their way. * Normal children cry when you make changes in their routines. * Crying is their only form of communication in the first years of life. * Crying can mean, 'I don't want to'. * This is called normal protest crying and is not harmful. * Do not assume that crying means pain.
  • WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: * Crying is the most common symptom of a temper tantrum. * Temper tantrums occur when your child is angry or trying to get his way. * This is most likely the cause of the crying if it occurs at these times. * All kids have some temper tantrums, starting at about 9 months of age.
  • TIPS FOR DEALING WITH TEMPER TANTRUMS: * Ignore most tantrums (such as demanding something the child doesn't need). * Don't give your child an audience. Leave the room. * For tantrums from frustration (such as when something doesn't work), help your child. * For aggressive (hitting) or destructive (throwing) tantrums, put in timeout. Leave your child there until he calms down. * Don't give in to tantrums. No means No. * Be a good role model. Avoid yelling or screaming at others (adult tantrums).
  • WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: * Sleep problems can cause crying. Suspect this if most of your child's crying occurs in his crib or bed. The crying mainly occurs when you put him down for naps and at night. Also, suspect a sleep problem if your child acts normal during the daytime. * Sleep problems are common in childhood.
  • TIPS FOR TREATING THE SLEEP PROBLEM: * Re-train your child to be a good sleeper at bedtime and naptime. * Place your child in the crib 'drowsy but awake'. * Once placed in the crib, don't take your child out again. * Visit your child as often as needed until asleep. * For night awakenings, however, it's fine to hold your child until calm. * Do all of this in a loving way with a calm voice. * Never feed until asleep. * Never sleep in the same bed with your child.
  • CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF: * You have other questions or concerns
  • CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF: * You have other questions or concerns
  • CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF: * You have other questions or concerns


The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

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