Group B streptococcus (strep) is a serious bacterial infection. Newborns may have the infection hours after delivery. Or it can develop during the first few weeks after birth. When an infant is diagnosed with group B strep right after birth, he or she will stay in the hospital for treatment. This care sheet is for parents who have taken their baby home. It will help caregivers recognize symptoms of the infection if it develops later. This is known as late onset group B strep.
This type of strep is not the same as the type that causes strep throat.
If your baby has group B strep, he or she will need to be treated in a hospital. Your baby may need special care, such as being in the intensive care unit (ICU) in the hospital. This may be scary for you. But the hospital staff understands this. They will explain what happens and will answer your questions.
Newborns infected with group B strep may get a blood infection (sepsis) or lung infection (pneumonia). Or they may get an infection of the fluid or tissues that surround the brain and spinal cord (meningitis). If you think your baby has group B strep, get medical care right away.
The infection is sometimes caused by the mother passing the bacteria to the newborn. The bacteria can also come from another source. Sources for late-onset infection can be hard to figure out and are often unknown. Babies who are born early (before 37 weeks) are more likely than full-term babies to get group B strep.
Symptoms of group B strep may include high or low body temperature. With a low temperature, your baby's skin may feel cold and clammy. With a high temperature, the skin will feel warmer than usual. Your baby may be fussy and have lower energy. Other symptoms include vomiting, breathing quickly, and having trouble feeding. With babies, vomiting should not be confused with spitting up. Vomiting is forceful. Spitting up may seem forceful. But it often occurs shortly after feeding. And it doesn't continue like vomiting does.
The doctor will test your baby's blood or spinal fluid or both for group B strep bacteria.
Your baby will be treated in the hospital. Antibiotics are given to stop the infection. The medicine may be given through an intravenous (IV) needle into a vein.
If your baby has trouble breathing, the doctor may use a ventilator. This machine helps your baby breathe. To do this, the doctor puts a soft tube through your baby's mouth into the windpipe.
The hospital staff will give your baby the nutrition he or she needs. The doctor may feed your baby through a soft tube that goes through the nose and into the stomach. Or the doctor may use an IV that goes through the belly button to do this.
Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
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Current as of: May 12, 2017
John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
& Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MD, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Jennifer Merchant, MD - Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine
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