Sudden and severe crying

Why is my baby suddenly screaming?

If a baby starts crying hard or in an unfamiliar way, is suddenly very upset, or won’t settle at all, the baby may be in a medical crisis. If parents don’t see anything obviously wrong, they may want to quickly remove all the baby’s clothes and look for a pin sticking into the baby, a very hard tummy, a new rash, a fever, or anything else abnormal. Sometimes a hair or thread becomes wrapped around a small part of the baby and strangles the tissue. Any vomit or poop should be examined for blood.

A) Describing a baby in a medical crisis

All healthy babies cry from time to time. A baby in a medical crisis may suddenly:

  • Start crying hard in away you haven’t heard before.
  • Be very upset.
  • Not settle at all.
  • Be excessively sleepy.

If at first glance you can’t find anything obviously wrong, you may want to quickly remove all the baby’s clothes and look for:

  • A pin sticking into the baby.
  • A hair or thread that has wrapped itself around the baby’s finger, toe, penis, or labia and is strangling the tissue (Baştuğ 2015; Dunphy 2017; Kesu Belani 2019).
  • A very hard tummy.
  • A new rash.
  • A fever.
  • Anything else abnormal.

We have seen two emergencies develop in our office when a hair became wrapped around a baby’s finger in one case and a toe in the other.

Blood in the stool (poop) or vomit are also signs of an emergency.

If you can’t immediately identify the problem and stop the screaming, contact your health-care providers immediately or go to an emergency department.


Baştuğ O, Korkmaz L, Korkut S, et al. Hair-thread tourniquet syndrome in a preterm baby. Turk Pediatri Ars. 2015 Dec 1;50(4):245-7
Dunphy L, Verma Y, Morhij R, et al. Hair thread tourniquet syndrome in a male infant: a rare surgical emergency. BMJ Case Rep. 2017 Nov 1;2017

Kesu Belani L, Leong JF, Narin Singh PSG, et al. Hair Thread Tourniquet Syndrome in an Infant: Emergency Exploration Saves Limbs. Cureus. 2019 Dec 13;11(12):e6377