Newborns are given an eye ointment, an antibiotic ointment to prevent their eyes from getting infected with gonorrhoea. If this ointment is not given to a baby, his/her chances of developing blindness or other severe eye diseases may increase later in life. Many health organizations and health practitioners recommend this ointment to all newborns.
Erythromycin ointment is an antibiotic given to babies to prevent eye infection. This ointment application to newborns is called eye prophylaxis.
The mother might be having a gonorrhoea infection in the body during the time of birth. This infection is caused by a sexually transmitted bacterium that infects both females and males. It mostly affects the rectum, urethra, or throat. In the case of females, it might affect the cervix too.
So if the mother is carrying this bacterium, it might pass on to the child during birth. The eye infection in newborns caused by this bacterium is called ophthalmia neonatorum. If this medication is not given, the child may have puffy and red eyes with pus, usually within five days of birth. A child suffering from ophthalmia neonatorum will need antibiotics via IV. If the treatment is not provided, it can damage the corneas and result in blindness.
That said, the erythromycin ointment may not prevent or treat ophthalmia neonatorum caused by Chlamydia. This infection has become more prevalent in recent times but less severe. A child suffering from Chlamydia infection will be prescribed oral antibiotics.
The practice of application of eye ointment dates back to the 1800s. Back then, doctors used silver nitrate instead of an antibiotic. Later, they started using erythromycin because it caused less irritation to the newborn’s eyes.
In most countries, erythromycin application is dictated by state law. But some doctors follow their hospital or personal policies. According to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the medication should be provided within 24 hours of birth.
The reason behind this prophylactic treatment is the prevention of eye infections caused by sexually transmitted diseases. Gonorrhoea and chlamydia are not the only cause of eye infections in newborns. There are other microorganisms that can cause mild infections in little ones. Any microorganism present in the pregnant women’s vagina can pass on to the newborn’s eye and cause the infection. So prevention is necessary. The eye ointment is and should be given to all newborns, despite the type of delivery method. Whether a baby is born vaginally or via C-section, he/she should be given the eye ointment.
If in case you are planning a homebirth, ask your midwife or doctor for this ointment. In this case, there are chances that the ointment needs to be provided by you, here’s how you can apply eye ointment to your child:
First things first: wash your hands before handling your child’s eyelids and the ointment.
When applying the ointment to your child, you can tilt his/her head back when you lay him flat on his back. Ask your spouse to take him in his arms or hold him in place. Also, cover him with a thin blanket.
To avoid any pain to the little one, do this step carefully. Do not apply pressure on the eye.
Now apply a thin strip of the ointment inside your baby’s eyelids. Do keep in mind you cannot touch the baby’s eye with the ointment-tube tip.
Whatever excess ointment comes out of the child’s eyes, wipe it off with clean tissue paper.
Usually, the eye ointment does not cause any discomfort to a newborn. It is manufactured with keeping newborns in mind and yet not losing effectiveness. Please use it according to your doctor’s prescription even if the symptoms disappear.
It is always good to take precautions. That is why doctors always recommend this eye ointment, even in case of a C-section delivery. In fact, most US states have prescribed this ointment in their state law. It is always advised to go by your health professional’s suggestions for the well-being of your child. Ophthalmia Neonatorum might prove fatal. It progresses very rapidly and causes permanent damage to a baby’s eyes.
Every treatment comes with side effects that might affect a few children. Here are some observed side-effects:
Parents should be cautious about few things while storing the ointment. These are:
It is always good to trust your health practitioner completely. At the same time, do all your research and make a wise decision for your child. After all, you are the best judge for your child.
This post was last modified on May 6, 2021 8:13 am
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