Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Adar 5761 - March 7, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Infant Hypothermia Liable to Cause Irrevocable Damage
by N. Katzin

Infants are particularly susceptible to hypothermia in cold weather, according to Professor Chagit Horowitz, director of the Bikur Cholim Hospital Pediatrics Department. Professor Horowitz warns that the damage caused by hypothermia is liable to harm various systems in the body, endangering the infant's life. Increased awareness of this problem is vital for the prevention of irrevocable damage to babies.

There are cases of hypothermia every winter, mainly in the hilly regions of Jerusalem, Hevron and Tsefas. Infants are most susceptible to this problem during their first few months. Those whose birth weights were relatively low are in the highest risk group. They are more sensitive to temperature drops.

Professor Horowitz notes that in Israel, as throughout the world, hypothermia doesn't necessarily occur more frequently in weaker sectors lacking heating systems. It is caused mainly by parents' lack of awareness of the need for heating. "It is important to know that an infant is much more vulnerable to cold than an adult, and sometimes the heating in a baby's room is insufficient. This can occur when the infant's bed is near an outer wall or he or she is in a room that is difficult to warm up because of a high ceiling. One should also exercise caution when taking the baby out of a heated room for any reason whatsoever," she stressed.

A temperature of 22-23 (71-73 F) degrees is recommended for baby's room. (One can check the heat with a thermometer.)

One should be on the alert if the following symptoms appear: the baby doesn't react by crying or screaming; he or she is quiet, drowsy and apathetic; or doesn't wake up for meals. The fact that a baby looks good and has rosy cheeks doesn't rule out the possibility of hypothermia. Another possible sign is swollen extremities.

When these symptoms appear, one should check the infant's temperature. If it is lower than 36 degrees (96.8 F), he must receive immediate medical attention.

Professor Horowitz adds that it is very important to air the baby's room -- when he isn't in it -- in order to prevent infection from winter viruses. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning there should be permanent ventilation outlets when combustible materials are used to heat the room.

Overheating of a room is also not recommended, since recent studies have linked overheating to crib death in infants up to one year old.


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