Objective: To determine the prevalence of hypothermia, factors associated with hypothermia and risk factors for mortality in hypothermic newborn infants.
Study design: Cross sectional descriptive study.
Study site: Harare Central Hospital Neonatal Unit (NNU).
Subject: Three hundred and thirteen consecutive newborn infants admitted to the NNU for care.
Study factors: Temperature on admission to the NNU, mode of delivery, time of delivery, age on admission to the NNU, birth weight, sex, birth before arrival, need for resuscitation.
Results: Prevalence of hypothermia on admission was 85% with a mean axillary temperature of 34.3 degrees C (SD= 1.6). Median age on admission was 120 minutes and there was a case fatality rate of 18.3%. The need for resuscitation, age at admission to NNU, time of delivery, birth weight, sex and being born before arrival were not significantly associated with being hypothermic. The only factors that were associated with mortality were babies being born before arrival and birth weight below 1 500 gms. Age at admission to NNU, sex, time of delivery and need for resuscitation were not significantly associated with mortality.
Conclusion: Neonatal hypothermia on admission remains a major problem in our population. There is need to increase awareness among nursing staff and mothers about the serious consequences of hypothermia particularly in very low birth weight newborns. Training in this area is called for.