It started as a normal day out with my two-week old son. Then he stopped eating. His usually vigorous appetite disappeared. He developed a fever soon after. That is when we rushed him to the emergency room of our local children’s hospital. Within minutes of our arrival we were whisked into an exam room where a urine sample was collected, blood was drawn, an IV started, and preparations were underway to perform a lumbar puncture (also known as a spinal tap).
My son was admitted. His little body was pumped full of various antibiotics for a week. He was lucky, his infection was caught early. The blood work and lumbar puncture showed that there were no signs of infection in his blood or his spinal fluid.
I breathed a sigh of relief the day we were discharged. We had, I knew, dodged a bullet. A simple urinary tract infection could have cost him his life.
In an older child, a similar mild fever and infection would only mean reaching for a bottle of acetaminophen to bring it down and making sure they stay hydrated. Newborns, however, are not supposed to get fevers and when they do it is often a result of a potentially life-threatening infection.
New parents are instructed when leaving the hospital after their child’s birth to watch for changes in eating habits and for fever, among other symptoms. Written instructions are given that advise them to call their doctor if this happens.
While I was given this information after the birth of my son or daughter, I wasn’t told about the significance of these symptoms I had learned the true danger of a fever in a baby under 3 months old from, of all places, a medical reality show.
Last week I had to take my newborn daughter to the hospital. Her appetite dropped and her bottles were often left half empty. She stopped fighting and crying when we went to put her in her car seat. She became hard to wake up and looked generally unwell. Thankfully, she had no fever.
We were lucky this time. She did not have to go through the complete workup my son did. The doctor quickly discovered an ear infection as the cause. Antibiotics were given through an IV and her blood sent to the lab. The results were good. Instead of having to be admitted, my daughter was able to go home. We just had to return the next night for a second dose of antibiotics.
My kid’s must have bad luck. Infections are rare in newborns, especially those requiring admission to a hospital. I am grateful, however, that I knew the signs to look for and what to do if they showed up. Pay attention to your baby under three months old and call your doctor if you think they may be unwell — it could save your child’s life.
I guess I have The Learning Channel (TLC) to thank for that. I knew watching all those reality shows might pay off someday.