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Chronic Lung Disease in Infants

Updated at: Oct 05, 2011
Newborn Care
Written by: Shreya LallPublished at: Oct 05, 2011
Chronic Lung Disease in Infants

Newborn Care-Long term respiratory problems in infants is known as chronic lung disease.

Chronic lung disease in infants is a state which is caused due to lung injury to a new born baby. Basically, it is a general term for long term respiratory problems in prematurely born babies. The damaged tissue causes problems in the baby’s lungs, resulting in several breathing and health problems. The lungs trap air, collapse fill with fluid, resulting in the production of extra mucus.


A prognosis would indicate as high survival rate of babies who have chronic lung disease; many outgrow it.


One of the main causes of chronic lung disease is premature birth. While this may be a sole cause of the disease or merely cataclysmic in the process, an early birth implies a lack of growth of the lungs, especially, the air sacs. Subsequently, it makes the baby more prone to infections, fluid build up, or even swelling, leading to the disease. It is most commonly seen in infants who are born in less than 26 weeks of their gestation age and weigh less than 2.2 lb.


Similarly, sometimes even low amounts of surfactant (a substance within the lungs that helps to keep the air sacks open) may trigger chronic lung disease.


Injury to the lungs caused due to forced breathing and high level of oxygen that accompanies treatments with a ventilator may be another reason.


It is significant to note the inheritance factor here. Inherent abnormalities in the lungs affect the development of the lungs, thereby causing chronic lung disease in infants.


Sometimes, premature babies are born with fluid in their lungs. Babies born prematurely or at full term by caesarean section tend to develop fluid in their lungs. Rarely, when a newly born baby breathes meconium into the lungs at the time of the delivery, it causes irritation as well as inflammation, damaging long tissues and leading to chronic lung disease.


Premature babies are also more prone to lung infections, such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

A constant adequate flow of nutrients is essential for a baby. In its absence, particularly in the absence of vitamin A, chances of chronic lung disease are high.


An infant affected by this disease would show signs such as grunting or breathing rapidly; using neck, chest or abdominal muscles to breathe; wheezing, creating a high pitched sound while breathing; easily getting tired after being fed; flaring nostrils; or even having a pale, patchy, grey coloured skin on the tongue, earlobes, lips, and nail beds.


Treatment for chronic lung disease in infants entails helping in breathing easily. The treatment begins by providing an oxygen therapy in the hospital, carrying it over at home. Therefore, before the parents leave with their baby for home, doctors advise them on the ways in which the treatment is to be carried out.


Mostly, infants outgrow the problem of lung disease. But for this, it is very important to provide them adequate nutrients on a steady, daily basis. This will help prevent complications in the disease.


Thus, it is important to take good care of the child so as to relieve the stress caused due to chronic lung disease in infants.


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