Young children who cannot talk yet will let you know when something is wrong by acting fussy or irritable. If your child is fussier than usual, it could be a sign that something is wrong.
It is normal for children to get fussy or whiny sometimes. There are lots of reasons why children get fussy:
Lack of sleep
Fight with a sibling
Being too hot or too cold
Your child also may be worried about something. Ask yourself if there has been stress, sadness, or anger in your home. Young children are sensitive to stress at home, and to the mood of their parents or caregivers.
Autism or abnormal brain development (if fussiness does not go away and becomes more severe)
Depression or other mental health problems
Pain, such as headache or stomach ache
Soothe your child as you would normally. Try rocking, cuddling, talking, or doing things your child finds calming.
Address other factors that may be causing fussiness:
Poor sleep patterns
Noise or stimulation around your child (too much or too little can be a problem)
Stress around the home
Irregular day-to-day schedule
Using your parenting skills, you should be able to calm your child and make things better. Getting your child on a regular eating, sleeping, and daily schedule can also help.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
As a parent, you know your child's usual behavior. If your child is more irritable than usual and cannot be comforted, contact your child's health care provider.
Watch for and report other symptoms, such as:
Crying that persists
Vomiting or diarrhea
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your child's health care provider will work with you to learn why your child is irritable. During the office visit, the provider will:
Ask questions and take a history
Examine your child
Order lab tests, if needed
Saunders M, Gorelick MH. The acutely ill child. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme III JW, et al., eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap. 60.
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.