Checklist to identify severe illness in infants
Hong Kong, January 12, 2008
Medical experts have compiled a checklist of seven signs that mothers and healthcare workers can use to identify severe illnesses in newborn infants requiring urgent treatment in hospital.
Around 4 million babies around the world die each year before they are a month old, and three-quarters of them die in the first week of life -- mainly from bacterial infections, birth complications and prematurity.
In an article published in the Lancet, the researchers said the list can help identify serious illnesses in infants under two months and bridge a gap in a previous checklist that did not cover infants in their first week of life.
"Anyone looking after children, mothers, should know that if children are not feeding well, it is a sign of serious illness, they should take it to care," said Martin Weber of the World Health Organisation in Jakarta.
"It seems very simple, but these are messages we need to promote more widely. If the baby is not moving spontaneously and only doing so when you touch it, that should alert you that the baby has problems," Weber told Reuters in a phone interview.
The seven clinical signs are: History of difficult feeding; history of convulsions; movement only when stimulated; breathing rate of 60 breaths per minute or more; severe chest indrawing; over 37.5 degrees Celsius; under 35.5 Celsius.
Weber and colleagues started off with a checklist of 31 signs that first-line health workers used to identify severe illnesses in 8,889 infants brought to clinics in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ghana, India, Pakistan and South Africa.
These assessments were compared against decisions made by pediatricians. Weber's team later found the assessments were reliable even after the list was narrowed down to seven points.
Weber stressed that mortality figures can only be reduced if proper healthcare is available to these children. - Reuters