Infections - in newborn and premature babies

Newborn children can acquire many different types of infections.

Information to parents.

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Infection in newborns and premature babies

Newborn children can acquire many different types of infections: pneumonia, meningitis, infection in the kidneys and urinary tract, blood poisoning due to bacteria in the blood. Furthermore, skin infections can arise. Infections in newborns are often caused by bacteria, but can be due to virus or fungi.

Infections can arise at birth, during birth or while the child is admitted after the birth.

When do newborns get infections?

The newborns immune system has not been challenged with bacteria and viruses. The child has not had the chance to build up antibodies against infection.

Newborns can be born with, contract or acquire infections in connection with the birth. The risk of a baby getting an infection is higher if the mother has an infection, due to the bacteria transmitting directly from the mothers placenta to the child. 

Premature and poorly newborns

The premature child has not gained sufficient antibodies from the mother, due to the early birth. The natural white blood plates are not yet mature.

Premature babies and sick newborns, often require subsidiary liquids and nutrition through a drop. This can increase the risk of bacterial infections in the blood.

How does a newborn baby react to infection?

Symptoms of infection are not characteristic and can be confused with symptoms from other causes. Therefore, as a parent you might experience that we treat your child with antibiotics, even though we only have a suspicion of your baby having an infection.

This is necessary, because infections that are not treated in time, can be dangerous. In cases where the infection cannot be verified, the treatment will often stop after three days.

Symptoms could be

  • doziness
  • pauses in breathing or other breathing problems
  • increasing need for oxygen
  • temperature variations
  • reduced ability to digest food
  • pale skin
  • low blood pressure
  • cramping (especially with meningitis).

How do we discover if my child has an infection?

Suspicion often arises either by the parents, or nurse looking after the child. If there is suspicion of infection, the doctor will examine the child and take blood tests to see if there are bacteria in the blood. Sometimes it’s necessary to do a lumbar puncture to eliminate meningitis.

The nurse might take samples of secretions from the airways and urine tests and send them for testing to examine the possibility of pneumonia or urinary infections. The bioanalyst will take a blood test to measure a protein in the blood (called CRP), which will increase in level with bacterial infection.

How are infections treated?

The most important step in treatment is to start antibiotics. We will often choose to treat the child with more than one antibiotic to ensure the child protection against the most common bacteria. Viral and fungal infections are treated with other medicines than bacterial infections. Quite often there is no treatment for viral infections, but they often disappear by themselves. Some children may be treated short term with a respirator and medicine for low blood pressure, if the infection is serious.

What consequences will an infection have for my baby?

There are often no consequences in the long term, after an infection. Most children become quickly healthy again, when treated with antibiotics against the infection.

During treatment we observe your child very carefully and ensure that the right treatment is given.

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