Hypothermia is defined when your body temperature is lower than 95 degrees fahrenheit. In infants though hypothermia is when their body temperature is lower than 97 degrees fahrenheit. Normal body temperature for a newborn is anywhere between 97.7-100.4 degrees fahrenheit. Infants lose body heat faster. Their bodies can’t shiver to help keep their body temperature up. Hypothermia affects 32-85% of babies born in the hospital. Though hypothermia can be easily remedied, it can become very serious if left untreated. It is very rare in the United States but hypothermia can lead to death, less than five babies a year die from hypothermia.
Hypothermia can be caused by a lot of different factors. One of the main causes of infant hypothermia is being born in a cold environment. Babies born in a hospital have a higher possibility of getting hypothermia because they are born into an environment that is at cold temperatures. If your baby has trouble regulating their body temperature on top of being in the cold hospital environment they could develop hypothermia. Thankfully when born in a hospital, your baby will be wiped off of the amniotic fluid immediately then swaddled. Hospitals will keep a hat on your baby’s head as well. A hat on a baby’s head can help reduce heat loss by 19%. Premature babies also have a higher risk of developing hypothermia. Premature babies are babies born before twenty eight weeks or babies that have less than 3.3 lb birth weight. Babies with low birth weight have a 30-78% of hypothermia, even full term babies that have low birth weight have increased risk. If your baby is born with hypoglycemia they risk the higher chance of hypothermia as well. If your child has an infection such as meningitis or sepsis is also another risk. Premature babies have a chance of being born before their nervous system is developed all the way. An immature nervous system can cause a higher chance of your baby getting hypothermia.
If you suspect your child has hypothermia you will need to take their temperature. Rectal thermometers are the most accurate in body temperature, or temporal thermometers. Do not do auxiliary temperature, these are not always accurate, and with an infant taking an under the tongue temperature is also not reliable. If your baby’s temperature is too low, call your health care provider immediately. Your doctor may tell you to go to the emergency room.
Symptoms of hypothermia include bright red skin, skin that is cold to touch, poor feeding, lethargic or trouble breathing. If you suspect it could be low body temperature take your baby’s temperature right away. There is chronic hypothermia, which is where the hypothermia fails to go away. The symptoms that go along with chronic hypothermia are failure to thrive, weight loss, or no weight gain. Chronic hypothermia is rare but presents itself mainly in premature babies with extremely low birth weight.
Though hypothermia can be common and happen out of nowhere there are somethings you can make sure to do to help prevent it even at home. The most important one is to make sure your baby is dressed appropriately. Depending on indoor or outdoor temperatures. If cold outside make sure they are bundled, and have a hat on. Rule of thumb is to dress your baby in one more layer than you would dress yourself. If you are in your house in jeans and a t-shirt, your baby may need a long sleeved shirt or a t-shirt with a light sweater over the top. Keep your indoor temperature at home warm. You can limit baths as well, the water can cause your baby to lose excess heat. Swaddle your baby to help keep them warm. You can also help keep your baby warm with your own body heat. Holding or snuggling your baby will help warm them. If your baby is laid down in their cradle or bassinet, make sure they are swaddled or in a sleep sack to help them stay warm while sleeping, without using loose blankets.
If at home you try to swaddle your baby, add additional clothing, and hold them to warm them up and it does not work, you need to call your doctor immediately. They may advise you to go to the emergency room. At the emergency room they hospital will want to warm your baby up. They will put them under a warming light to help increase their body temperature. They will be monitored closely to make sure their body temperature is going up. The doctor may want to run additional tests to see if there is an underlying cause of hypothermia, or if it was just accidental. Once your baby has reached a healthy body temperature they will be taken out of the warmer and then monitored to make sure they maintain their body temperature and regulate more normally. This may be an instance where you are kept overnight for observation to make sure your baby can withstand being out of the warmer for consistent hours and not drop significant body temperature. Your doctor when looking for underlying causes of hypothermia, may take some blood cultures to see if there is an infection. If there is nothing specifically causing the hypothermia your doctor will release you with a follow up with your pediatrician.
Hypothermia is very easy for a baby to get. With their body weight tiny compared to how much exposed skin there is it is very easy for them to lose heat. Make sure you dress your baby appropriately for the weather, keep them bundled when needed and keep their environment warm. Wearing a hat can help reduce their heat loss significantly so keep their little heads covered even inside if needed. If you have any concern about their temperature reach out to your doctor immediately. Hypothermia is not something to hope just passes on its own, it is something you want to get treated as soon as it is noticed.
There is a Good Reason Newborns Wear a Hat! Learn more here. #HealthStatus
A hat on a baby’s head can help reduce heat loss by 19%.
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