Infants should be nursed in the neutral thermal environment and have a core body temperature between 36.5 – 37.2 degrees Celsius.
The neutral thermal environment is the temperature range where heat production is at the minimum needed to maintain normal body temperature. It depends on Birthweight, postnatal age, and whether the infant is clothed or naked.
Because heat production requires oxygen consumption and glucose use, persistent hypothermia may deplete these stores, leading to metabolic acidosis, hypoglycaemia, decreased surfactant production, increased caloric requirements, and if chronic, impaired weight gain.
Infants lose heat through conduction, convection, radiation and evaporation.
Nursing care is critical in supporting thermoregulation through ongoing assessments and environmental interventions to decrease heat loss for the infant being cared for in an incubator.
- An infant may require an incubator for the following reasons:
- When they are not maintaining their own temperature with clothing and wrapping.
- When they are acutely unwell and close observation is required.
- When they are at risk of abnormal heat loss.
- They have a known infection/ or the potential to develop sepsis.
- There are nutritional concerns (given that infants use a large proportion of their calorific intake for maintaining their temperature)
- They are small for gestational age.
- They have a large wound site.