Why Does an Infant Have Cold Feet?

Tiny toes
Close-up of an infant's feet while it lies on a bed. (Image: MZiello/iStock/Getty Images)

Becoming a new parent is both exciting and frightening. The smallest of symptoms, such as cold feet, may have you concerned. Try to relax, because cold feet are common, especially in an infant. Infants cannot fully regulate their body temperatures, so it becomes your job. Become confident in your parenting skills by learning how to dress your baby and gauge his temperature. Know the symptoms to look for that may indicate something other than just cold feet.

Causes

Your child is born not yet fully developed. After birth, his circulatory system is still learning to supply his entire body with blood. Its priority is to send blood to the vital organs -- the heart, lungs, digestive and urinary organs. Because of this, blood is redirected away from the less vital parts, like the feet. Less blood flow means your little one's feet can become cold.

Dressing Your Infant

Just because your infant's feet feel cold doesn't mean its time to bundle him up in a blanket, hat and booties. Here's the rule of thumb: Dress your infant just like you would dress yourself, then add one extra layer. Gauge whether your infant is warm enough by touching his torso. If it feels warm and is tinged pink, your baby is fine. Keep your baby's head warm, however, because heat can be lost through the surface. An infant cap should do.

Taking a Temperature

If you are unsure or concerned about your baby's cold feet or the way he is dressed, take his temperature. A normal rectal temperature should be around 100.2 degrees Fahrenheit or less in an infant. If your infant's temperature is 97.6 or less, he may be feeling cold. In that case, add a layer of warmth.

When to Worry

At times, cold feet can be a sign of something more serious going on inside your infant's body. Cold feet can be a symptom of meningitis, a disease in which the spinal cord and brain become inflamed. If your infant has cold feet as well as a high fever, bulging fontanelle, irritability, shortness of breath, back and neck stiffness, a limp body, vomiting, no appetite, blotchy skin, extreme fatigue or a painful body, head to an emergency room. Untreated, meningitis can be fatal.

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