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Preventing Sepsis In Babies

A blood infection that occurs in 90-day-old infants and younger is called neonatal sepsis. With proper treatment, the child is completely cured of sepsis. However, neonatal sepsis is a major cause of infant death. So the faster the infant receives treatment, the better it is for the baby’s health.

A blood infection that occurs in 90-day-old infants and younger is called neonatal sepsis. Neonatal sepsis can be seen as early as the baby’s first week of birth or between days 8 and 89. A variety of bacteria such as Listeria, Streptococcus and E. coli cause neonatal sepsis.

Early-Onset Sepsis: When sepsis occurs within a week of the baby’s birth, it is known as Early-onset sepsis. 85% of it occurs within 24 hours of the baby’s birth. Premature babies are more susceptible to neonatal sepsis than full-term babies. The mother is responsible for giving the infection to the baby before or during the time of birth. The baby may inherit the bacteria from its mother through the placenta before birth. The baby may also acquire the micro-organisms from the mother while it passes through the mother’s infected genitourinary tract during birth. Pneumonia is a common occurrence in a baby having early-onset sepsis.

Late-Onset Sepsis: Late-onset sepsis usually occurs in children on coming in contact with the bacteria present in the caregiving environment. It infects the baby’s skin, gastrointestinal tract, conjunctivae, or the respiratory tract. Meningitis is a common occurrence in a baby having late-onset sepsis.

Sepsis Symptoms: The symptoms may begin to appear as early as within the first 24 hours of the baby’s birth. If any of the following symptoms are seen, the pediatrician is to be consulted immediately.

  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Pale skin, skin rashes, bruises and bleeding
  • Diarrhea
  • Bloated abdomen and vomiting
  • Reduced appetite
  • Erratic breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Redness around the belly button
  • Fever

Appearance of one or more of the above symptoms may point towards a possible neonatal sepsis infection. However, only after the necessary tests are conducted, one may establish the degree of the infection and the treatment required.

Treatment: Treatment for neonatal sepsis should be started as soon as it is diagnosed because it suppresses the infant’s immune system. After the tests are underway and even before the test results are back, the infant is started on antibiotics. He may also be administered IV fluids and oxygen. In case of serious symptoms, the baby may be admitted to the hospital for monitoring.  The treatment may take between 2 to 21 days and depends on where the bacteria has infected the infant.

With proper treatment, the child is completely cured of sepsis. However, neonatal sepsis is a major cause of infant death. So the faster the infant receives treatment, the better it is for the baby’s long-term health factors.

Preventing sepsis: The doctor may prescribe antibiotics to the pregnant mother to avoid any potential for infection. If the mother has previously given birth to a baby with neonatal sepsis or of her blood samples record a bacterial infection, the doctor will prescribe the relevant medication. Pregnant mothers should take proper care to avoid a premature birth by avoiding drugs and alcohol and following a healthy balanced diet.

Treating mothers having a bacterial infection, providing a clean birth environment, and breastfeeding the baby can help in reducing the risk of contracting neonatal sepsis.


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