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Hypothermia in newborn

Hypothermia is a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature, usually caused by prolonged exposure to cold temperatures.  It occurs when the body is unable to produce enough heat to counter the heat that it is losing. Normal body temperature averages 98.6 degrees. With hypothermia, core temperature drops below 95 degrees.

The part of the brain that controls body temperature is called the hypothalamus. When the hypothalamus recognizes changes in body temperature, it initiates body responses to bring the temperature back in line. Hypothermia is particularly dangerous because it affects your ability to think clearly.

Causes

  • Immature nervous system
  • Inability to efficiently conduct heat
  • More permeable skin
  • Low subcutaneous and brown fat
  • Large surface area per unit body weight
  • Heat loss from the newborn is mainly due to evaporation of amniotic fluid from the baby's body. 
  •  Hypoxia severe hypoxia prevents the normal breakdown of brown fat and, thereby, decreases the production of heat. 

Sign and symptoms

  • Cold-to-touch
  • Shivering
  • Excess cry
  • Irritability
  •  Feed poorly
  • Hands and feet are usually pale or blue
  • Slow and shallow breathing
  • A weak and/or irregular pulse

Treatment

  • All wet infants must be dried immediately and then wrapped in another, warm, dry towel.
  • Warm and humidify oxygen whenever possible.
  • Not bath small or sick infants
  • An infant can be kept warm for hours if wrapped in a thermal blanket.
  • A transparent Perspex shield can be placed over an infant in an incubator to reduce heat loss by radiation.
  • Give 4% sodium bicarbonate
  • If breathing becomes very shallow or non-existent, begin CPR.

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