Neonatal Infections

Infections in newborns

Most newborns come into the world as healthy babies, but sometimes for the remaining few, that isn’t the case. Your baby’s immune system is developing and compromised in the early stages of birth, right from pregnancy, which is why he may be susceptible to some of the most common neonatal infections. Here’s what you need to know.

Most Common Neonatal Infections

A neonatal infectious disease may occur during pregnancy inside the womb or after delivery as well. Here are some neonatal infections you need to be aware of, including their causes, symptoms, and risk factors.

1. Group B Streptococcal Disease

Group B Streptococcal Disease is an infection that babies contract from inside mothers’ wombs.

What is It?

An infection caused by a certain bacteria that’s present in the vagina or rectum, it is passed on to the newborn right before birth.

Symptoms

The symptoms of this infection are-

Risks

Risks associated with this disease include-

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your baby’s doctor may collect blood, urine or cerebrospinal fluid samples to analyze the culture. Treatment is done through antibiotics under careful supervision and monitoring inside the hospital.

2. Listeriosis

Babies contract listeriosis only if mothers are infected with its bacteria during pregnancy.

What is It?

Listeriosis monocytogenes is an infection that leads to other diseases like pneumonia, sepsis, and meningitis. Listeriosis primarily originates from unpasteurized food and improperly cooked meals.

Symptoms

They are similar to Group B Streptococcal Disease (GBS) and include:

Risks

Risk factors for listeriosis are-

  • Premature Delivery
  • Stillbirth
  • Pneumonia
  • Sepsis
  • Meningitis

Diagnosis and Treatment

Blood samples are collected for diagnosis. Treatment usually follows the use of antibiotics for eliminating the bacteria in babies.

3. Meningitis

Meningitis is a disease that occurs during the neonatal phase or after birth in babies. It is passed down from bacteria, fungi, and other viruses.

What is It?

Meningitis is an infection that causes inflammation of the membranes that surround the spine and the baby’s brain. A baby with a weak immune system can contract this disease from his surroundings through exposure to germs.

Symptoms

Meningitis can be identified through symptoms such as-

  • Crying
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Problems while feeding
  • Irregular body temperature
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rashes
  • Jaundice
  • Diarrhoea

Risks

Risk factors associated with meningitis are-

  • Death
  • Learning impairment
  • Kidney damage
  • Memory problems
  • Loss of hearing

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your doctor may take blood samples, or run an MRI or CT scan for diagnosing meningitis. The treatment will depend on the type and degree of meningitis your baby has. Most cases of meningitis are resolved with a combination of antibiotics, antiviral medications.

Sick newborn

4. E-Coli Infection

E-Coli infection is known as the Escheria-Coli infection. It originates from E-Coli bacteria that is found in every human being.

What is It?

It’s an infection that causes urinary tract infections in babies and newborns encounter it when birthed through the birthing canal. E-Coli infections may be contracted from environments such as homes and hospitals.

Symptoms

Symptoms of E-Coli infections include-

  • Fever
  • Lack of appetite
  • Listlessness
  • Unexpected fussiness

Risks

Risks associated with this infection include-

  • Damages intestinal linings
  • Life-threatening kidney failure

Diagnosis and Treatment

Samples of your little one’s stool will be collected for diagnosing and confirming the presence of an E-coli infection. Currently, there is no treatment available for this infection, and supportive care includes getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated.

5. Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis is referred to as ‘pink eye‘ and is an infectious disease that spreads to other babies as well.

What is It?

When your little one’s eyes get inflamed due to a viral or bacterial infection, it is called conjunctivitis.

Symptoms

The following are the symptoms of conjunctivitis in babies-

  • Swollen eyes
  • Redness in the eyes
  • Discharge

Risks

The only risk associated with conjunctivitis is vision impairment if left untreated.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Usually, conjunctivitis is diagnosed through lab tests by collecting discharge samples from the eyes. Treatment, in most cases, is done at home by using a combination of antibiotics and eye drops. In severe cases, babies are hospitalized.

6. Candidiasis

Newborns acquire candidiasis through vaginal delivery or when they’re breastfed. It is caused due to the overgrowth of the yeast candida that’s found in the body.

What is It?

Candidiasis is an infection that reveals itself in the form of diaper rashes or oral thrush in babies.

Symptoms

Symptoms of candidiasis are-

  • Vagina rash
  • Pain in the vagina
  • Irritation and itching of the vulva
  • Thick, white, odourless discharge from the vagina or watery discharges

Risks

Risks associated with this infection are-

  • Weakened immune system
  • Nappy rash

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your doctor will take a sample from your baby’s mouth using a swab to diagnose this infection and send it for lab tests. Treatment is basically using antifungal medications like miconazole and nystatin in babies after feeding or drinking.

7. Sepsis

Sepsis is an infection that turns into a life-threatening complication when allowed to spread throughout the body. Children with a weak/compromised immune system are prone to it.

What is It?

When chemicals that have been released in the body fail to fight infections and instead trigger inflammatory responses on the inside, different organs begin to fail, and sepsis occurs. Sepsis, in severe cases, even leads to death.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Sepsis are-

  • Decrease in urination
  • Mood swings or sudden psychological changes
  • Breathing problems
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Pain in the abdomen

Risks

Risks associated with sepsis are-

  • Multiple organ failures
  • Blood clots
  • Sepsis shock
  • Low blood pressure
  • Death

Diagnosis and Treatment

The doctor may collect blood or urine samples for running lab tests to confirm a sepsis diagnosis. Alternatively, an X-ray, urine, and blood tests may be done for signs of blood clots or organ failure. Treatment involves early aggressive treatment in the hospital for the early stages of sepsis, starting them off on antibiotics even before the diagnosis is confirmed, then moving on to blood pressure medicines and IV fluids if the situation calls for it.

Newborn in hospital

8. Influenza

Influenza is contagious and can be spread from person to person. If your baby comes in contact with someone with influenza or touches objects which are infected with its virus, they get influenza.

What is Influenza?

Influenza is referred to as the ‘flu’ in babies and is more than just mild fever. In severe cases, it turns into a deadly complication why is why protecting babies from it is crucial.

Symptoms

Symptoms of influenza are-

  • A runny nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Shakes and chills in the body
  • Fever
  • Fatigue

Risks

Risks associated with influenza for babies are-

  • Not staying hydrated
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fussiness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever with rash

Diagnosis and Treatment

Influenza is diagnosed by its physical symptoms, such as fever lasting 2 weeks or more. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to your little one for a speedy cure and treatment. Alternatively, you can get your baby a flu shot as a preventive measure for extra protection.

9. Neonatal Herpes

Neonatal herpes is a serious infection in babies and is contracted from the mother during vaginal birth. If you’ve already had the infection 6 weeks into your pregnancy, your baby will definitely get it.

What is It?

Neonatal herpes is an infection that causes illness in babies with a compromised immune system. It primarily causes fatigue and a lack of interest to eat in newborns.

Symptoms

The symptoms of this infection are-

  • Not eating
  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bluish tongue and skin
  • Rashes
  • Lethargy
  • Listlessness

Risks

Risks associated with this infection are-

  • Blindness
  • Death
  • Learning impairments
  • Seizures
  • Spasticity

Diagnosis and Treatment

Your doctor will collect samples of blisters and spinal cord fluids to diagnose herpes. Urine or blood tests may be done, including an MRI scan for further diagnostic testing.

For mild cases of herpes, acyclovir is used for early treatment to prevent the spread of the infection. For severe cases, treatment is carried out in the hospital.

10. German Measles

German Measles is commonly referred to as ‘Rubella’ and is caused by the Rubella virus. It’s a mild infection that affects kids with underdeveloped immune systems.

What is It?

German measles is a viral infection that spreads when someone infected with it comes in contact with your newborn.

Symptoms

Its symptoms are-

  • Pink or red rash
  • Muscle aches
  • A headache
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Mild fever (below 102 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Red eyes
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Stiff neck
  • Earache

Risks

Its risks and complications are-

  • Heart abnormalities
  • Growth defects
  • Intellectual impairment
  • Poor functioning of organs
  • Stillbirths

Diagnosis and Treatment

Doctors detect this virus though lab tests of blood samples or virus cultures. For pregnant mothers, treatment is staying at home and taking antibodies like hyperimmune globulin. Babies who are affected by the Rubella virus will require treatment from a team of medical specialists at the hospital.

11. Congenital Syphilis

Congenital Syphilis occurs inside the womb during pregnancy. It is very contagious in nature and affects newborns.

What is It?

It is a life-threatening infection that’s passed on from moms to babies.

Symptoms

Its symptoms are-

  • Fever
  • Irritability
  • No weight gain
  • Saddle nose
  • Rash

Risks

Its risks are-

  • Severe neurological defects
  • Miscarriage
  • Stillbirth

Diagnosis and Treatment

Blood tests are used for diagnosing this infection. The only available treatment option for this infection is taking penicillin injections.

Is It Possible to Prevent Neonatal Infections?

Yes. It is possible to prevent neonatal infections by taking flu shots or the recommended antibodies. Get yourself checked up at the hospital before pregnancy to detect signs of any these infections. Additional tips for preventing neonatal infections include-

  • Practising safe intercourse
  • Maternal testing
  • Properly cooking and pasteurizing food
  • Washing hands before and after meals
  • A nutritious diet and a healthy lifestyle
  • Avoiding contact with others affected by any of these infections

Neonatal infections can be prevented by leading a healthy lifestyle and practising proper hygiene. Be aware of these infections and get yourself an appointment for a maternal check-up before following through your pregnancy.

Also Read: How to Deal with Congenital Nystagmus in Babies