While most new-borns enter the world in a healthy state, some infants suffer from neonatal emergencies that require immediate medical treatment. Neonatal emergencies are common problems that affect a human new-born either at the time of birth, during the in-hospital post-birth period, or at home until the neonatal period ends. The neonatal period begins at conception and ends at 28 days after the baby's delivery. As new-borns have a weaker immune system than adults, they cannot fight bacteria, viruses, and parasites, making them more susceptible to certain diseases. When new-borns get sick, they often have to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to recover.
Signs and symptoms of Neonatal Emergencies
Common signs and symptoms of neonatal emergencies include breathing difficulty, poor feeding, abnormal body temperature, skin rash, constant crying, and irritability. If you observe any unusual behaviour, such as a change in the sleeping pattern, it is recommended to contact your child's doctor and seek medical help. It is vital to keenly observe your child for any signs, especially if they are less than one month old.
Common types of Neonatal Emergencies
The most common types of neonatal emergencies are:
Trauma can be classified into two categories: accidental or non-accidental trauma. Most accidental trauma in babies happen due to falls, assaults, motor vehicle accidents, and child abuse. Some mild to severe trauma signs include seizures, decreased alertness, loss of consciousness, no breathing, vomiting, and pale skin. Medical treatments might cure trauma, but prevention is always better than cure. You should never shake a new-born too hard or hold them in a state of anger.
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Heart diseases such as heart failure, sudden collapse, or heart murmur are commonly present in new-borns. If you observe your child feeding poorly, sweating profoundly, and weight gain or loss. Heart diseases can be categorised into two types: Cyanotic and Acyantoic heart disease.
When the body of a new-born fails to convert their food into energy due to their genetic disorder, they are known to have poor metabolic function. This problem often arises due to the accumulation of toxic substances, which interferes with the body's normal process. You should look out for seizures, laziness, apnea, irregular body temperature, vomiting, and poor feeding.
Seizures often occur in new-borns during the neonatal phase. Seizures are difficult to recognize as most of the time the symptoms are subtle, like abnormal eye movements or unusual tongue movements.
If a new-born is vomiting in the neonatal period, parents should not ignore it and consult a medical professional. Parents should never ignore a problem in new-borns considering it a mild stomach ache as it can also be a life-threatening infection.
Complications of neonatal emergency
Neonatal infections that aren't given immediate attention and proper treatment can have serious consequences, even fatal in severe cases. Since babies' bodies are fragile and are undergoing rapid development, any form of infection leads to complications, neurological, cardiac, respiratory, and developmental problems. An early diagnosis, treatment, and monitoring are the best way of overcoming the infection.
Can neonatal infections be prevented?
Most neonatal infections can be prevented if a pregnant woman diagnosed with the condition takes preventive measures. It can lower the odds of passing it to the new-born. The majority of infections can be treated with over-the-counter medicines; therefore, pregnant women must get maternal testing done. Other neonatal infections can be prevented if expectant mothers protect themselves from the diseases in the first place. This can be done by getting vaccinated and immunised against chickenpox and other conditions before conceiving. They can also remain healthy by simply washing their hands regularly and staying hygienic.
The article is contributed by Dr Suresh Gowda, Consultant - Paediatrician and Neonatologist, Motherhood Hospitals, HRBR Layout, Bangalore.