Methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder that affects the babies. The main cause of the disorder is an increase in level of methemoglobin or metHb in the blood. MetHb occurs in the blood when the hemoglobin present in the blood becomes oxidized.
The formation of this compound in the blood leads to improper distribution of oxygen to various body tissues. MetHb uses the oxygen for its own sustenance resulting in tissue hypoxia. Studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health have revealed that increase in red blood cells count is directly responsible for Methemoglobinemia.
Symptoms of Methemoglobinemia in Babies
However, there are some cases wherein the disorder is genetic. Often use of specific drugs and chemicals (like the preservatives found in some foods) can also result in the blood disorder. If a new born baby is suffering from Methemoglobinemia, it is indicative that one of the parents is the carrier for the disease. Parents whose babies are susceptible to falling prey to Methemoglobinemia should be on a lookout for the following symptoms-
The skin of the new born baby will be slightly bluish or purplish in color instead of having a pink or red tone to it. The color of the skin changes because the composition of the blood becomes different. The skin tone will change considerably with time. In some cases the babies may also secrete differently colored mucus.
Often the baby will show late physical as well as mental development. In some cases of Methemoglobinemia the babies turn out to be mentally challenged. The fear of social interactions can trigger off panic and anxiety attacks in children suffering from Methemoglobinemia.
The baby will not be active and remain listless and cranky most of the times. He/she will prefer sleeping to playing. However, the baby might display sudden bouts of energy immediately after being fed. These outbursts will be mild and last a very short while. The baby will soon become exhausted and fall asleep. Methemoglobinemia also affects the mood adversely. Your child will be restless and irritated for most part of the day.
There will be lots of crying sessions mainly because the baby will find it difficult to express itself.Methemoglobinemia in new born babies is life threatening. Many babies afflicted with the disorder do not live beyond a certain time. There have only been a few cases where the children have survived infancy.
Treatment for Methemoglobinemia
In order to save your baby, it is important to get treatment for Methemoglobinemia as soon as possible. Hence, every parent should be empowered to read the signs of Methemoglobinemia correctly. In new born babies who are genetically affected by the disease, treatment is done with help of methylene blue drug.
However, before administering the drug to new born babies it is important to check them for G-6-PD deficiency. If the baby is found to be suffering from the deficiency then even mild doses of methylene blue can prove to be fatal for the baby. Babies with G-6-PD disorder (a blood disease) are given Vitamin C to treat Methemoglobinemia.
Alternative treatments such as exchange transfusions and hyperbaric oxygen therapy are also used to cure Methemoglobinemia. In both the treatments, the entire blood in the body is flushed out and replaced with blood or plasma from a donor.