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Staph Infection In Newborn Babies

It’s D-day! We’re talking about Delivery-day. It’s time for a mother to go into the hospital with a giant pregnant belly, and come out with a newborn. Hopefully she won’t leave with an additional unwanted stowaway: staph bacteria. A staph infection in newborn babies can have lifetime consequences if it’s allowed to progress. 

In this article, we’ll discuss what neonatal staph infections are, and how doctors can prevent them from occurring. 

Did a doctor diagnose your baby with a staph infection? Did your child suffer serious injuries as a result? Our malpractice law experts can help you determine if negligence was involved, and whether you’re entitled to damages. Contact Hampton & King here for a free consultation. 

Catheter may have bacteria that results in staph infection in newborns.

What Is A Staph Infection In Newborn Babies?

Staphylococcus, or Staph for short, is a type of common bacteria. It’s harmless when it lives on the skin’s surface. Healthy people can have staph bacteria on their noses, mouths, and genitals. 

But when staph gets below the skin’s surface, that’s another story. If it finds its way in through an open wound or sore, it can cause a dangerous infection

Most newborns are born in hospitals, a place rife with bacteria, good and bad.  But doctors take extra-exaggerated precautions to protect patients—and especially babies. Stringent hygiene protocol can keep infections from spreading to them. 

And yet staph infection in newborn babies does happen. How? Here are a few different example scenarios: 

  • Suppose a baby has to undergo a complicated procedure, or receive invasive treatment. Staph could be present on equipment like a catheter or a mechanical ventilator. 
  • Sometimes newborns come down with staph infections because doctors or nurses fail to follow hygiene protocol, like wearing gloves and sanitizing instruments. This could constitute medical negligence. 
  • Mothers or visitors might infect babies with the bacteria. 

It’s also possible for staff to pass on the “staph” despite their best efforts to keep it at bay. Why? Because certain risk factors make some infants more susceptible to staph infections than others. Let’s take a look at some of them below.

Risk Factors For Infant Staph Infections 

In general, the longer a newborn stays in the hospital, the more risk of developing a staph infection. That’s because there’s more opportunity for exposure. But are other risk factors, such as:

  • Being premature
  • Undergoing invasive procedures (like being on a ventilator or undergoing surgery)
  • Having a low birth weight
  • Needing to use a catheter 
  • Staphylococcal colonization (presence of the bacteria on the newborn). Infants born to mothers with staphylococcal colonization are more likely to be colonized. But while colonization is a risk factor, it doesn’t mean an infant will become ill.  

Are Staph Infections In Newborns Serious?

Now let’s take a look at the signs of staph infections in newborn babies. If medical personnel take swift action, they can catch an infection in its early stages. 

Symptoms of staph infection in newborns:

  • Skin lesions or blisters
  • Swollen skin
  • A fever
  • Vomiting
  • High or low body temperature
  • Heart beats too slow or too fast 
  • Lethargy and irritability

Once they diagnose an infant with a staph infection, doctors will prescribe antibiotics. Methicillin is the usual choice to treat newborns. But some strains of staph are resistant to methicillin, so a different antibiotic might be the ticket. If the baby has a skin lesion, doctors will apply a clean bandage to it.  

Judging from those treatments, a staph infection in newborns doesn’t sound serious at all. But it’s a different ball game if doctors miss the signs “pitched” by the infection. 

Complications Of Staph Infections In Newborn Babies

Left untreated, a staph infection in newborn babies can morph into a serious condition like sepsis or meningitis. Sepsis is an illness in which the infection invades the baby’s bloodstream. Antibiotics like ampicillin and gentamicin can treat sepsis. 
But what if doctors don’t treat the baby for sepsis? The infection can then spread to the brain and spinal cord. This is a dangerous condition called meningitis. Without prompt treatment, meningitis can lead to brain damage, cerebral palsy, developmental disabilities, seizures, and even death.

Staph infection in newborn leads to sepsis.

Legal Recourse For Staph Infections In Newborns

If your baby was injured by a staph infection stemming from negligence, you have the right to file a medical malpractice claim. But how do you know that a doctor’s negligence was the cause?

Speak with a birth injury lawyer. This type of attorney has the expertise needed to sort through your child’s complex hospital records. They can help you determine whether hospital personnel were at fault. To speak with our legal team about your child’s case, contact us here.