Bacterial Infection in Babies: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Bacterial Infection in Babies

Bacterial infection may commonly occur in babies due to their vulnerable immune systems. That is why mother’s milk is so important for babies as it provides the necessary antibodies to fight these infections.

Bacterial infections in infants can be quite worrisome as their condition tend to worsen quickly. Infants suffering from bacterial infections may require intensive care and treatment. Most babies respond to timely treatment well. The doctor after diagnosing the condition may recommend a course of antibiotics.

Common Bacterial Infection in Babies?

Some of the common bacterial infections that may occur in babies are listed below:

  • ConjunctivitisConjunctivitis triggered by bacterial infection affects baby’s eyes, inflaming the eyelids. The infected eyes may produce a yellow discharge causing the eyes to stick together.
  • Listeriosis – Listeriosis is a type of food poisoning which is caused by eating infected food that is contaminated by a bacterium. Listeriosis may be passed on from an infected mother to her newborn baby possibly leading to life-threatening complications.
  • Streptococcal Infection – Streptococcal infections or strep infections strike babies when the bacteria gets transferred from their mother to them at the time of birth. Streptococcal infections in babies can result in complications like meningitis, pneumonia, sepsis (blood infection).
  • Gastro-intestinal infections – Bacteria may invade a baby’s digestive tract causing diarrhoea. Babies with diarrhoea can have associated symptoms like vomiting, stomach ache.

Symptoms of Bacterial Infection in Infants

The common symptoms of bacterial infection in infants can be:

  • High fever
  • Poor feeding
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Irritability without any clear reason
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Changes in behaviour like sleeping patterns
  • Crying insistently
  • The skin may become pale or appearance of rashes

What Causes Baby Bacterial Infection?

Some of the causes of baby bacterial infection are as follows:

  • An unborn baby may get exposed to the bacteria in the infected mother’s birth canal during pregnancy.
  • Bacterial infection can get transmitted from an infected mother to her new-born baby during childbirth.
  • With time as the bacteria multiply, a newborn baby can fall sick within few days after birth.
  • Babies can fall prey to infections caused by both bacteria and viruses.
  • Viruses may enter the bloodstream of a baby even before birth.
  • New-born babies may become a victim of viruses causing cold and flu due to the weak immune system.
  • New-born babies are likely to easily catch an infection by coming into contact with infected
  • Early detection of the infection and timely treatment are the keys to effectively treat baby bacterial infections.

Diagnosing Your Baby for Bacterial Infection

In case of new-born babies, the condition can deteriorate rapidly. Hence early on treatment is essential. A doctor may conduct a few tests to diagnose your baby for bacterial infection. While the results of the tests come in, the doctor may start the treatment by prescribing a course of antibiotics in the meantime. The doctor may recommend the following tests to reach a diagnose:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC): A blood sample of the new-born baby may be taken to conduct a complete blood count. CBC is done to determine the specific number of the different blood cells with special attention to the count of white blood cells (WBC). A lower count of WBC is indicative of the presence of some infection in the body.


  • Blood Culture: A blood culture helps to find out the existence of bacteria in the blood and to identify its type. Once the blood culture establishes the kind of bacterial infection, a doctor can decide upon a suitable treatment.
  • A Urine Test: A urinalysis or a set of screening tests may be done to detect the nature of bacterial infection.
  • Skin or Eye Swab: The doctor may collect some specimen from the infected area such as the eye and the surrounding tissue for analysis.
  • Chest X-ray: A baby may require a chest X-ray if the doctor suspects pneumonia.
  • Spinal Tap: A spinal tap or lumbar puncture involves extracting a small sample of CSF ( Cerebrospinal Fluid), a clear liquid that “cushions” the spinal cord, the brain and the central nervous system for investigation.

Treatment for Infant Bacterial Infection

In case of newborn baby bacterial infection, your doctor may begin the treatment by prescribing antibiotics. It is important to complete the course of antibiotics as prescribed by the doctor even if the baby starts to show signs of improvement. The antibiotics may be given to the baby through Intravenous Infusion IV which can deliver the correct measure of antibiotics straight into baby’s bloodstream.

In the incidence of bacterial infection in babies stomach, if the baby is unable to consume food IV fluids may be given to the baby to ensure supply of the essential nutrients and to prevent dehydration. In special cases like a bacterial infection in blood in babies, doctors may monitor baby’s breathing and heart rate to avert any possible complication.

There is no harm in being over cautious when dealing with new-born babies. If you suspect something seems to be wrong with the baby, consult your doctor right away rather than waiting for the symptoms to get manifested. Prompt diagnose and early on treatment in treating bacterial infection in babies is very crucial.

Also Read: Bacterial and Fungal Infections in Children

Previous article «
Next article »