The heat wave which is sweeping across the Hyderabad-Karnataka region appears to be affecting the health of newborns as neonatal ICUs and postnatal wards of both government and private hospitals in the region are being flooded with babies struggling with dehydration.
“We get around 300 newborns admitted every month, of which 40 or so are diagnosed with acute dehydration. It is an alarming number. As long as the mothers and the newborns stay in the hospital after delivery, there will be no problem as they are properly counselled and taken care of. The problem starts after they go home as they don’t follow our instructions on intense breastfeeding and keeping the mother and baby in a cool environment,” said Sandeep H., head of the paediatric department at Gulbarga Institute of Medical Sciences.
Shivappa Malipatil, a senior paediatrician from Raichur, said he has handled several cases of acute dehydration in newborns this summer where the blood urea level had gone up to 400 mg/dL, against the normal range of 40 mg/dL, and the serum creatinine to the level of 6 mg/dL, against the normal range of 0.6 mg/dL.
“This will, if not treated, lead to an acute renal failure, affecting the functioning of the kidney, and other health complications. If treated properly, it can be cured 100%,” he said.
Parents usually cover their babies with thick or woollen cloth to protect them from the cold. But the strange thing is that they do so even when the temperature crosses 44°C, he observed. “This causes loss of body fluids and leads to dehydration. Apart from [receiving] intense breastfeeding, newborns should be kept in a cool environment,” Dr. Malipatil said.
H. Veerabhadrappa, another senior paediatrician from Kalaburagi, has begun to advise his patients to keep their babies inside baby-mosquito nets covered with wet cloths. “Now, it has become a normal practice among those from the poorer sections of society,” Dr. Sandeep said.
Prashant R. Kulkarni, a paediatrician from Kalaburagi, sees the issue from a different perspective. “Extreme temperature is everywhere, but not the resultant dehydration among newborns. The percentage of dehydration cases in newborns is far lower in other areas when compared to Hyderabad Karnataka even though the temperature is almost the same. Wherever people are aware of the importance of aggressive breastfeeding, , dehydration cases among babies are fewer. The question, therefore, is one of awareness, not of the temperature,” he said.Of the 12 newborns presently admitted in his hospital, eight are suffering from acute dehydration.
Dr. Veena V. Siddareddy, senior ophthalmologist at United Hospital in Kalaburagi, said the number of children in the 5-10 age group coming to the hospital with eye ailments has sharply risen in the summer.
“Excessive dryness in the eyes leading to irritation and redness, allergic reactions and clouding of the cornea causing photokeratitis, which leads to blurred vision, are among the issues that we see more in summer. Excessive exposure to the sun can lead to early cataract and can affect the retina, causing macular degeneration and reduced vision in the long run. Excessive heat and dust exposure can cause pinguecula and pterygium in the eyes (excess growth of tissue near cornea mainly on the nasal side),” she said.