Fever, Coughing, Loss of Appetite, Irritability & Rashes in an Infant

If your infant experiences a fever, coughing, loss of appetite, irritability and a rash, several different conditions could be to blame. Your baby could have a virus such as roseola or hand, foot and mouth disease, or she could be suffering ill effects from a recent vaccine or even from teething. If you're not sure what's causing the symptoms and you're concerned, you should take your child to see her pediatrician, even if it's just to rule out any more serious conditions.

Fever, coughing, loss of appetite, irritability and rashes can indicate a number of illnesses in an infant. Credit: Hannes Eichinger/iStock/Getty Images


The virus-caused illness roseola occurs mainly in infants, according to MedlinePlus, a publication of the National Library of Medicine. The most common signs of roseola are a high fever and a skin rash, although the disease also can cause coughing, loss of appetite and irritability in infants. A child with roseola also may suffer from a runny nose, red eyes and a sore throat. The roseola rash usually starts as the fever is waning, and can cover most of the body. The virus usually goes away on its own, although if your infant spikes a high fever you should take him to the emergency room or urgent care.

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease

Hand, foot and mouth disease, caused by another virus, usually starts with a fever, poor appetite, general irritability and a sore throat that might cause a cough, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the condition progresses, the baby will develop sores in her mouth and a rash, usually on the palms of the hand and the soles of the feet. Again, there's no specific treatment for hand, foot and mouth disease, so you should treat the symptoms, such as the fever, and take your infant to the pediatrician if necessary.

Vaccine Side Effects

All vaccines can cause side effects, although most are minor and will resolve quickly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In an infant, vaccines potentially can bring on fevers, coughing, rashes, loss of appetite and irritability. If you've just had your child vaccinated and he develops these symptoms, they may be a reaction to the vaccine. You should keep your infant comfortable and control the fever with over-the-counter medications suited for infants, but keep an eye out for any more serious reactions that may develop. If in doubt, call your pediatrician.


Teething can certainly cause irritability in infants, but you may not know that it also can cause fever, loss of appetite and even a facial rash, according to a study headed by Dr. M.L. Macknin and published in the journal "Pediatrics" in April 2000. In that study, no teething child ever had a fever of higher than 104 degrees, but infants suffered from a wide variety of symptoms, which included common teething signs such as increased drooling as well as more uncommon signs such as ear rubbing. Some infants developed coughs from teething, but not enough to make it a trend.

If you know your infant is teething and you notice mild symptoms, you probably don't need to worry. But if the symptoms seem out of proportion to teething, you should probably touch base with your pediatrician to rule out any other illnesses.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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