'My baby could have died!': Every new parent should know about this potentially fatal infection

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'That evening he was so much worse and we went straight back to the doctor' (Getty Images)
'That evening he was so much worse and we went straight back to the doctor' (Getty Images)

Trusting her gut instinct meant a world difference for one local mom whose newborn's misdiagnoses could very well have ended tragically. 

Here she shares how she learned about a common infection called septicaemia the hard way. 

Read her story below: 

"My little boy was just a week old when his tummy turned rock hard and he started crying inconsolably. I went to the doctor the next day, and he diagnosed him with colic. I didn’t agree with the diagnosis and spent the afternoon reading up about reflux, which to me felt closer to the truth. That evening though, he was so much worse that we went straight back to the doctor.
He gave him one look and had him admitted to the hospital. Turns out he had septicaemia. This diagnosis was confirmed with a blood test. He got antibiotics immediately, and after a few days in the hospital, he was much better.
What keeps me awake at night now is the thought of what could have happened if I hadn’t gone back that evening. He could have died! How can a mother know when her newborn has septicaemia when the symptoms are so close to those of colic or reflux? And what is the cause?

Paediatrician Dr Hanneke Heyns answers:

Septicaemia is a bacterial infection of the blood and one of the most common infections that babies get. The infection is usually transferred from the mom just before or during birth. Often, the mom doesn’t have any symptoms, which makes it even harder to diagnose.

These infections usually occur in the first month after birth. Septicaemia can also occur at any time after that, but then the cause would be something different, the symptoms would be different, and the condition would not look the same.

The problem with babies is that, unfortunately, they have very few symptoms, and the symptoms can be rather vague and also overlap with many other conditions.

Read: Infant Illnesses | Spotlight on colic

Babies with septicaemia are usually lethargic, don’t want to nurse, don’t nurse well, cry more, can even vomit and aren’t their usual self. But all these symptoms can also be signs of an “off” day due to overstimulation, or because baby has jaundice, colic or a whole host of other conditions.

With babies, you often have to see the doctor a few times before the correct diagnosis is done. Conditions like colic and reflux usually take a while to develop, and the symptoms don’t pop up overnight.

If symptoms arise quickly, for a day or two, and the symptoms worsen quickly, the condition is usually serious, and you should consult the doctor immediately. Don’t wait for fever, as babies often don’t just get a fever. If you are uncertain, ask questions and go back. Trust your motherly instinct.

Septicaemia can’t be diagnosed without the necessary blood tests, and that is why it is so important for blood and urine tests to be done if there is even the slightest possibility that this could be the cause of the symptoms.

If the diagnosis is confirmed, intravenous antibiotics will most likely be administered, treating the condition effectively.

With quick diagnosis and the right treatment, there shouldn’t be any long-term effects. Remember, you always know your baby best, so go see the doctor if you are feeling uneasy.

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