Baby health warning checklist

  • Olivia Fens

Doctors have compiled a checklist of seven signs that mothers and healthcare workers can use to identify severe illnesses in newborns 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.

Published in an article in in the Lancet , the list can help identify serious illnesses in babies under two months and bridge a gap in a previous checklist that did not cover infants in their first week of life, according to the researchers.

Lead researcher Martin Weber of the World Health Organisation said: “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.”

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

The researchers started off with a checklist of 31 signs that health workers use to identify severe illnesses in 8,889 infants brought to clinics across Africa.

The assessments were then compared against decisions made by pediatricians, and the team found that the assessments were reliable even after the list was narrowed down to seven.

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