Hypothermia more likely in Black, Asian newborns
Newborns of Black and Asian mothers are significantly more likely to experience hypothermia than those born to white mothers, according to a new study. The research will be presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) 2023 Meeting, held April 27-May 1 in Washington, D.C.
Researchers reviewed electronic medical records of 23,549 infants born at 35 weeks or later and admitted to a children's hospital-affiliated newborn nursery between 2015 and 2021. The study evaluated all recorded temperatures of hospitalized newborns and classified cases of hypothermia—a condition in which body temperature drops below 97.7°F—as mild (one episode of temperature 96.8-97.5°F) or moderate/severe (two or more episodes of temperature less than 97.7°F and/or one or more episodes of temperature 96.8°F or less).
The study found one in five (21.7%) newborns were hypothermic and 21.4% of these were classified as moderate/severe. When compared to white mothers, newborns of Black and Asian mothers had significantly higher odds of mild hypothermia and even higher odds of severe hypothermia.
Both mild and moderate/severe hypothermia were more likely in newborns of lower gestational age, lower weight, and who were both bottle and breastfed. Hypothermia was less likely in newborns born in the late afternoon. Hypothermia in newborns can be caused by environmental factors or can be a sign of illness, like sepsis.
"Hypothermia doesn't only happen in very low weight or premature newborns, but our data and approach to treatment are limited to that population," said Rebecca Dang, M.D., M.S.Epi, Instructor at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford and presenting author. "Understanding how and why newborns of all gestational ages and sizes experience hypothermia will allow us to provide better, tailored care and address racial disparities made clear by this study."
Study authors note identifying factors that affect hypothermia is critical to targeting evidence-based hypothermia care efforts toward at-risk newborns.