What is group b strep in newborns?

Group B strep in newborns: Overview

Group B streptococcal (group B strep) infection is a serious bacterial infection. Newborns may develop the infection hours after birth or during the first week of life. They can also get it several months later.

Newborns with group B strep may have low energy, a raised breathing rate, and a hard time feeding. Babies who are infected with group B strep need medical care right away. This is because the infection can be deadly. They will be given medicines to treat the infection. They may also get fluids and breathing support from a machine.

What are the symptoms of group B streptococcal infection in newborns?

Symptoms of group B strep may include high or low body temperature, irritability, low energy, raised breathing rate, and trouble feeding. Newborns also may get infections of the blood (sepsis), lung (pneumonia), or tissues around the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). Newborns infected with group B strep need medical care right away.

How is group B streptococcus (strep) in newborns treated?

Your baby will be treated in the hospital. Antibiotics are given to stop the infection. The medicine may be given through an intravenous (I.V.) needle into a vein.

If your baby has trouble breathing, the doctor may use a ventilator. This machine helps your baby breathe. To do this, the doctor puts a soft tube through your baby's mouth into the windpipe.

The hospital staff will give your baby the nutrition your baby needs. The doctor may feed your baby through a soft tube that goes through the nose and into the stomach. Or the doctor may use an I.V. that goes through the belly button to do this.

How is group B streptococcus (strep) in newborns diagnosed?

The doctor will test your baby's blood or urine or both for group B strep bacteria. Your baby may get a chest X-ray. If your baby shows signs of a serious infection, the doctor may test the spinal fluid.

How can you care for group B streptococcal infection in newborns?

If your newborn is at risk for getting group B strep, watch them for possible signs of infection. These could include irritability, low energy, trouble feeding, and a hard time breathing. Newborns thought to be infected with group B strep need medical care right away because the infection can be deadly.

What causes group B streptococcus (strep) in newborns?

The infection is sometimes caused by the mother passing the bacteria to the newborn. The bacteria can also come from another source. Sources for late-onset infection can be hard to figure out and are often unknown. Babies who are born early (before 37 weeks) are more likely than full-term babies to get group B strep.

What is group B streptococcus (strep) in newborns?

Group B streptococcus (strep) is a serious bacterial infection. Newborns may have the infection hours after delivery. Or it can develop during the first few weeks after birth. When an infant is diagnosed with group B strep right after birth, the infant will stay in the hospital for treatment. This care sheet is for parents who have taken their baby home. It will help caregivers recognize symptoms of the infection if it develops later. This is known as late onset group B strep.

This type of strep is not the same as the type that causes strep throat.

If your baby has group B strep, your baby will need to be treated in a hospital. Your baby may need special care, such as being in the intensive care unit (ICU) in the hospital. This may be scary for you. But the hospital staff understands this. They will explain what happens and will answer your questions.

Newborns infected with group B strep may get a blood infection (sepsis) or lung infection (pneumonia). Or they may get an infection of the fluid or tissues that surround the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). If you think your baby has group B strep, get medical care right away.

Group B streptococcus (strep) in newborns: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your baby passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your baby has severe trouble breathing. Symptoms may include:
    • Using the belly muscles to breathe.
    • The chest sinking in or the nostrils flaring when your baby struggles to breathe.

Call the doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your baby has new or worse trouble breathing.
  • Your baby has a rectal temperature that is less than 97.5 °F (36.4 °C) or is 100.4 °F (38 °C) or higher. Call if you can't take your baby's temperature but your baby seems hot.
  • Your baby feels cold and clammy.
  • Your baby has no wet diapers for 6 hours or has strong-smelling urine.
  • Your baby's coloring has changed. Your baby's skin may look pale or blue.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your baby cries in an unusual way or for an unusual length of time.
  • Your baby is rarely awake and does not wake up for feedings, is very fussy, seems too tired to eat, or is not interested in eating.

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