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HealthPhone™: Umbilical Infections - Newborn Care Series

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Umbilical Infection in Newborns

The umbilicus is a dangerous entry point for infection, which can easily pass through the cord into the baby’s body and lead to sepsis and death.

This video will show how to evaluate and treat the baby with an umbilical infection.

Wash your hands. Then, as you take the baby’s temperature, gather important background information;

Did the mother receive tetanus immunization during her pregnancy?

What was used to cut the cord?

Was anything put on the cord?

Was the cord covered?

Ask about other danger signs such as poor feeding and convulsions.

The parents report that there is some redness around the cord. The baby is otherwise normal and feeding well.

Now check the baby: First observe that the baby is alert and active.

Look for a moist cord and any drainage of pus Check the cord for a bad odor. Look at the skin on the stump and at the base for redness and swelling. See the redness around the umbilicus.

Wash your hands, then, gently palpate the belly. A distended abdomen is a dangerous sign that the baby may be developing sepsis.

Then check from head to toe for other danger signs such as jaundice or breathing problems.

The health worker has determined that the baby has a localized umbilical infection. There is just a little redness around the cord. The baby’s belly is soft and there are no other danger signs.

The baby can be treated at home with amoxicillin by mouth. The cord needs to be cleaned and treated with gentian violet twice a day for 5 days. Teach the mother how to do this.

First have her wash her hands.

Gather clean cloths, soap and clean water that has been boiled and cooled. Put on gloves. Teach the mother to gently wash the cord with soap and water. Dry the area with a clean dry cloth. Guide her to carefully apply Gentian violet 0.5% (point 5 percent) to the cord stump and surrounding skin. Let her know that it stains. Advise her to keep the cord open to the air and not to put anything else on it.

Safely dispose of your gloves. Remind the mother to wash her hands before and after caring for the baby.

The cloths should be washed after each use and dried in the sun.

The parents should return in 2 days. Ask them to bring the baby sooner if there is more redness and swelling around the umbilicus, if the skin becomes hardened, or any danger signs develop.

This baby has a serious umbilical infection. There is redness and swelling around the umbilical stump and a bad odor. He has several danger signs: jaundice, poor feeding, and a low body temperature.

The signs of an infected umbilicus are redness -- often in a flare -- swelling, and pus discharge. The belly can be distended.

This yellow appearance is part of the normal decaying process of the cord. It may be confused for pus; but pus can be removed with a cotton swab.

Serious umbilical infections can cause babies to die very quickly (within 24 hours), so immediate referral is very important.

Before the baby leaves, give the first doses of antibiotics. The baby will need intramuscular injections of gentamicin plus either ampicillin or cloxicillin.

Notify the facility, arrange for transportation and write a referral note.

The baby should be fed every 2-3 hours by breast or cup.

Keep the baby warm through skin to skin contact throughout the trip.

Every effort should be made to refer the baby urgently. But if referral is not possible, do your best to care for the baby in your clinic though realize that this care is not the same.

When treating the baby at your clinic, effective treatment options are intramuscular gentamicin plus either cloxicillin, ampicillin, or procaine penicillin. Procaine penicillin has the advantage of being given once daily.

Continue to wash the umbilicus and apply gentian violet twice a day.

Treat the baby for 7 days.

Discharge the baby when the umbilicus is healed, she is feeding well, and there are no other problems. Be sure the baby receives the full 7 days of treatment.


The healing umbilicus is an entry for infection.

Treat a localized umbilical infection with oral amoxicillin and gentian violet.

An umbilicus that is red or draining pus with any danger sign is a severe infection and needs to be referred urgently.

Video Details

Duration: 6 minutes and 51 seconds
Year: 2012
Country: Nigeria
Language: English
Producer: Global Health Media Project
Views: 285
Posted by: nand on Jun 30, 2012

This film shows how to evaluate the baby with an umbilical infection, how to differentiate a mild infection from a severe one, and how to treat the mild case and refer all severe cases to a higher-level facility.

The primary audience are frontline health workers in primary and district level facilities. Filmed in Nigeria and the Dominican Republic.

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