Fever in the New Born

Fever can occur in newborn babies and should be taken seriously with the understanding that early intervention, if need be will save the parents from a lot of stress and the baby unnecessary suffering. Fever can be of different types

New born babies can develop a fever if they are not fed early after delivery. This is usually called dehydration fever since it is a response of the brain to inadequate volume of fluid in the circulation. This is common within the first two days of life. The solution is to feed the baby with breast milk if this has started running or with artificial feeds on prescription if the mother is indisposed. Drugs are not usually necessary since the fever subsides after feeding the baby. Some people give plain water for this purpose but it is better to feed the baby properly so as to provide both the calories and the required fluid at the same time.

Sometimes when the environmental temperatures are high, babies start to run a fever because of immaturity of the area of the brain that controls body temperature. This is more common in premature babies but can occur in any newborn. It is usually observed that the fever occurs at the time of the day when temperatures are highest (Usually from 2pm to 4-5pm in Nigeria).

Exposing the baby is usually enough to bring down the temperature. Unfortunately most mothers feel that babies should be properly covered all the time no matter the temperature of the environment. Their reason is that these babies could develop ‘cold in the chest’ (pneumonia) if exposed. This is definitely not the case. A mother should use the way she feels to determine whether the baby will be dressed in warm clothing, light clothing or exposed fully.

If after the measures described above a baby still has persisting fever, medical attention is required. This should be done as early as possible to enable the medical team intervene and expect a better outcome of treatment. The causes of infections in babies are very many and medication at home may not be the best for newborn babies because their condition could deteriorate rapidly. In the past, new born babies hardly suffered from malaria because of the immunity acquired from their mothers. Because of the changes in the nature of the malaria parasite this is no longer so. We now see a lot of newborn babies with malaria and some of them have high fever.

Bacterial infection can also lead to high body temperatures in newborn babies. Since some of these infections are contacted while the baby is still in the womb, the infections may have been established and advanced before delivery. Parents are therefore advised not to delay before seeking medical attention.

Some babies may develop a fever after their first immunization which is usually BCG and OPV. The cause of the fever is usually obvious because of the timing of the fever which starts soon after immunization. More common however is fever following immunizations at 6weeks, 10weeks and 14 weeks the so called triple vaccine (against diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus). Simple analgesics like paracetamol are usually enough for treatment of the fever which usually subsides a couple of days later. If however the fever persists and is of a high grade, medical attention should be sought so that the patient can be appropriately investigated and treated. Till next week. God bless!

Professor Adimora is the medical director of Favoured child Clinic, Enugu. A Consultant Paediatrician with the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu and Senior Lecturer in the department of paediatrics, college of medicine, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Nigeria. A bible teacher. He is also the author of the book ‘Anxieties of a young mother’. Author’s website: www.authorsden.com/gilbertadimora E:mail: [email protected][email protected]

SOURCE: The Nigerian Voice (opinions)