Incubators are device that provides sufficient warmth to the body to maintain a desired temperature. Premature babies have very less fat around them and lose heat rapidly to the surrounding environment. The incubator plays an important role in maintaining the small environment of desired temperature which minimizes the heat loss. Once the heat loss is reduced, the nutrition given to premature babies will be utilized in organ development and weight gain.
Incubators consist of the baby tray that is enclosed in a box like structure to provide a fix warm environment. The box is generally made of fibre glass or acrylic which is transparent and the heating mechanism is placed below the tray. The heat generated by heating mechanism is not used directly to heat the body. This heat is used to warm the air mixture which is then circulated in the closed environment around the baby. The temperature of the air as well as the baby is indicated on panels and the temperature control can be automatic as well as manual based on the incubators. Incubators are armed with alarms to derive attention for temperature change. Incubators are available with single wall and double wall, and the selection can depend on the environment temperature in which it is to be used.
There is no specific time frame for which a baby has to be kept in an Incubator, and the choice varies on case to case basis depending on how premature the baby and the weight of baby. Hence the time for which a baby is kept in an incubator can vary from couple of days to weeks and requires handling by trained professionals. Hence the universal rule that a baby should be kept in an incubator only as along as it is needed in the best time frame. Precaution should be taken while removing the baby from the incubator, so as not to move the baby immediately from a comfortable warm environment to a cold environment resulting in a high temperature gradient. Hence when the baby starts gaining weight, it is a practice to gradually reduce the temperature of the incubator.
The cost and the heat lost can be determining factor between selection of warmer and incubators. When it comes to critical care, such as low birth weight, incubators have been preferred while radiant warmers have been preferred to prevent heat loss in normal newborn babies. It is recommended to clean and disinfect the instrument regularly to avoid infection. Also, it is necessary to have a proper training and read the manufacturers guidelines for person handling these equipments.
Pediatric Oncall Journal
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