Sandwich bags save babies’ lives

By Drum Digital
27 June 2014

It’s one of the most moving sights: a tiny premature baby fighting for its life. But doctors in neonatal units are using a novel way of giving these babies the best chance of survival – sandwich bags.

These humble bags, used to wrap sandwiches or for storing food in the freezer, are saving the lives of thousands of infants born prematurely.

Paediatrician Dr Andrew Gallagher told the British newspaper the Daily Mail, “The bag acts as a micro environment. At this age she [a premature baby] was too tiny for an incubator, which is designed for full-term babies.”

Babies born prematurely have little body fat to keep them warm so they’re susceptible to hypothermia. The plastic bags simulate the environment in the womb and reduce the risk of them developing hypothermia. After this technique came into use at Liverpool Women’s Hospital in England, admissions of babies suffering from hypothermia that had been born at 29 weeks dropped from 19,4 per cent to 3,9 per cent.

Dr Bill Yoxall, clinical head of neonatology at the hospital, says the bags help to keep babies’ temperature stable. “They stop moisture evaporating from the skin and provide a ‘greenhouse’ effect to keep the babies warm.”

The remarkable solution to the problem was raised in America as early as 1971, but became more widely used in the late 1990s. According to the Daily Mail neonatal units all over Britain now use the plastic bags.

– Suzaan Hauman


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