Drug Abuse Caring for the Smallest Victims of
Pediatric Interim Care Center, The Newborn Nursery

There are characteristics and symptoms that drug exposed babies will have in common. The nature of these are characteristics and symptoms, their frequency and timing will depend on a number of factors: 1) the drug to which the baby was exposed; 2) how each individual baby metabolizes the drug; and 3) the baby’s own temperament and tolerance. It needs to be stated that no two babies will react exactly alike and that it should be the responsibility of the caregiver to carefully monitor and “read” their infant and his signs.

Hypersensitivity to Stimuli

Hypersensitivity is one of the most common traits to all drug-exposed infant. They have little tolerance for stimuli. This can include light, bright colors, touch, or loud noises. Even the act of swallowing or the closeness of another person can make a baby frantic. These babies need protection from the over-stimulation that can increase their distress but they should not be left untouched in a dark room.


Changes in Muscle Tone

Muscle tone is the degree of stiffness in the baby’s muscles. These can be either unusually limp or unusually stiff, particularly in the neck and limbs. It is also possible for the baby to experience mixed tone, with stiffness coming and going. Because of tremors, jerking or other signs of distress, the tensing of muscles is a sign of him trying to control those uncomfortable sensations.


Gastrointestinal Problems

Babies with watery stools, explosive diarrhea, excoriated buttocks, gas or constipation need proper handling to prevent dangerous health concerns.  A distressed or high-stimulated baby can increase gastrointestinal distress, which in turn can increase the baby’s distress, leading to a cycle, which can severely impact the health of the baby. Out -of-control diarrhea can rip the fragile lining of the intestine, it can also lead to dehydration, both having the potential of causing severe problems and possibly death. Reducing stimuli can stop this cycle.



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