Caffeine Given to Premature Babies to Better Lung Function

Caffeine Given to Premature Babies to Better Lung Function

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Caffeine has shown to have long-term health benefits for premature babies in a study conducted at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Melbourne, Austrailia. The findings were published in the American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine.

Pre-term infants are more prone to emphysema and other lung diseases when born. “Caffeine is a stimulant commonly most prescribed drugs among premature infants,” said Editor Eduardo Bancalari, MD.

Babies born weighing one or two pounds showed improvements in their lung function after they have had the treatment. Caffeine stimulates the brain and signals the lung to inflate for the child to have breathing functions.

“They do not have to have assistance with breathing for as long. They do not need as much additional oxygen added to the air they breathe, and they can go home quicker,” said Professor Lex Doyle.

The study, which was conducted with Professor Doyle as the lead author, saw more than 2,000 babies. Some were administered a small dose a caffeine and other a placebo lacking caffeine over a 43-week period.

The babies were given 5 milligrams of caffeine through an injection or it in milk. Professor Doyle said” Previous studies have shown that caffeine which belongs to a group of drugs known as methylxanthines, reduces the incident of sleep apnea, a condition in which a baby may stop breathing for many seconds.

Twins, Sophie and Tilly Snowdon took part in this study when they were born at 25-weeks premature. Sophie weighed 800 grams and Tilly weighed 760 grams, they spent six months in the hospital. Sophie had more problems breathing than Tilly, she had very difficult colds and would easily lose her breath.

Today the twins are both healthy and active, Tilly has no signs of breathing trouble while Sophie has mid symptoms.

“You would look at the girls and not be able to tell they had got a difficult start,” said their mother Meredith Capp. She added, “It’s good to know that we did the best thing for the girls as babies.”

Key points in this study found out that caffeine strengthened, regulated and halved breathing problems by the time they are 11-years-old. They also found that the babies gained less weight, the average weight difference was at 23 grams at the greatest.

Professor Doyle stated, “It would be desirable to repeat lung function more extensively later in life, and at more sites to identify those participants at higher risk of developing severe breathing disorders in adulthood.”

Chief of Neonatology Edward Shepard says, “The better their lungs work in the short-term the better their brain health will be in the future, preventing lifelong neurological problems.” He added, “Consistently giving these little babies the equivalent of a cup of coffee can have remarkable results.”

Written by Nicole Thompson
Edited Cathy Milne

Sources:

ScienceDaily: Lung Benefits of Caffeine Therapy in Preemies Persists into Mid-Childhood
The Age: Caffeine Shown to Have Long-Term Benefits for Premature Babies
ABC News: Giving Caffeine to Premature Babies has Long-lasting Benefits Study Finds

Featured Image and top Courtesy of Marco Verch’s Flickr’s Page-Creative Commons Licensed

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