Guardians Against NEC: Understanding the Devastating Impact on Children

Guardians Against NEC: Understanding the Devastating Impact on Children

Necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC, is a devastating condition that affects children in the first few months of life. According to the National Institutes of Health, almost 9,000 of the 480,000 infants born prematurely are at risk for NEC. It’s the result of an infection in the intestines and can quickly lead to sepsis and death in infants. In some cases, it’s entirely preventable.

This guide will explain what causes NEC, how to detect it, and why it’s so important for guardians to understand this condition.

The Basics of Necrotizing Enterocolitis

NEC is a disease that affects the intestines and can be caused by a bacterial infection or a bowel obstruction. It’s most common in premature babies, but it can also affect full-term infants.

If your baby has NEC, he or she may have symptoms like abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and loss of appetite. The condition is life-threatening because it causes necrosis (death) of tissue inside the intestines. Without treatment, there could be severe bleeding in the abdomen, which could lead to shock or death.

NEC occurs when bacteria enter the digestive tract through an intestinal tear between two sections of the intestine called duodenal atresia (DA). If left untreated, DA can result in serious complications such as malnutrition, failure to thrive, liver problems, etc. According to Medical News Today, almost 8% of neonatal ICU admissions in US hospitals are due to NEC.

The Devastating Impact on Children

An infection in the intestines causes NEC, which can lead to death if not diagnosed and treated quickly. The condition occurs when bacteria invade the bowel tissue, causing it to die off. This causes your child’s organs to stop working properly. They need immediate surgery if they’re going to survive long-term health problems later on in life.

Here’s how it can impact children:

  • Prematurity and immature immune system: NEC is more prevalent in premature infants because their immune systems are not fully developed, making them more susceptible to inflammatory conditions.
  • Gastrointestinal damage: NEC leads to damage to the intestinal tissue, which can result in perforation (holes) in the intestinal wall. This can lead to the leakage of digestive fluids and bacteria into the abdominal cavity, causing a life-threatening infection.
  • Systemic inflammation: The inflammatory response triggered by NEC is not limited to the gastrointestinal tract. It can lead to systemic inflammation, affecting multiple organs and systems in the body.
  • Sepsis: Perforation of the intestines can lead to sepsis, a severe and often fatal condition characterized by a widespread infection that can cause organ failure.
  • Nutritional challenges: NEC can interfere with the infant’s feeding tolerance. This can result in nutritional challenges and may necessitate intravenous nutrition, which is not ideal for long-term growth and development.
  • Long-term consequences: Survivors of NEC may face long-term health issues, including developmental delays, growth problems, and an increased risk of gastrointestinal complications later in life.
  • The emotional toll on families: Families of infants affected by NEC often experience significant emotional distress. The uncertainty of the infant’s prognosis and the potential for long-term health issues can take a toll on parents and caregivers.

Guardians as the First Line of Defense

As guardians, you are responsible for protecting your children from this dangerous condition. The first step in doing so is to understand what NEC is and how it affects infants.

The next step is to take the necessary precautions to prevent your baby from developing the disease. While there are some things you cannot control, like preterm birth, there are a few controllable factors.

For instance, baby formula has been linked to NEC. According to Consumer Notice, several studies have found that feeding baby formula can increase the risk of your infant developing NEC. The website also states that Abbott has even recalled several baby formulas.

According to TorHoerman Law, this health concern has led to several parents whose children developed NEC filing lawsuits. The parents say they were not informed about this potential health issue associated with baby formula. Hence, they have sued manufacturers like Similac and Enfamil.

Through the cases, they seek to get compensation for their damages. If the manufacturers lose these cases, they must pay the settlement amount. The NEC lawsuit payout amount has not been decided yet. However, experts believe that it can range from anywhere between $5,000 and $500,000.

Similarly, there are other things that guardians can do to protect their children:

  • Education and awareness: Educate yourself about NEC, its risk factors, and symptoms. Awareness is key to early detection and intervention.
  • Preventive measures: If your child is born prematurely, work closely with healthcare providers to understand and implement preventive measures recommended for premature infants. These may include breastfeeding, careful monitoring of the infant’s health, and proper hygiene practices.
  • Regular monitoring: Keep a close eye on your infant’s health, especially if born prematurely. Monitor for any signs of illness, changes in feeding patterns, or abnormal behavior.
  • Prompt reporting: Report any concerns or changes in your infant’s condition to healthcare professionals promptly. Early detection and intervention can significantly improve outcomes.
  • Follow medical advice: Adhere to the medical advice and recommendations provided by healthcare professionals, including attending regular check-ups and follow-up appointments.
  • Maintain hygiene: Practice good hygiene to reduce the risk of infections. Wash your hands thoroughly before handling the baby, and encourage others to do the same.

Navigating the Emotional Journey

Parents often have a lot of questions after their child is diagnosed with NEC. They may wonder if other babies are at risk, how they can prevent NEC, and what healing looks like in the long term. The best way to find answers is by talking with your pediatrician or neonatologist.

There are even chances that the condition leads to the baby’s death. In fact, many infants die because of one reason or the other. An NCBI article states that more than 6.03 million perinatal deaths occur. Of these, at least 99% are recorded in developing nations and 27% in underdeveloped ones.

During such situations, there are many ways you can support yourself:

  • Find support groups online where parents who have experienced similar situations can connect and share stories. These groups provide comfort as well as valuable information about how others handled their child’s illness or death. This will help guide your decisions and perhaps even save another family from suffering through something similar someday.
  • Seek out therapists who specialize in helping people deal with grief issues. Even if NEC leads to the child’s death, a therapist can help overcome the emotionally challenging situation.

Research and Advancements

NEC continues to be a major concern in the medical community. Hence, new research is constantly being conducted to understand its causes and provide better treatment options. Some recent advances include:

  • The development of a nasal gastric tube that can deliver nutrition directly into the stomach of infants who cannot eat independently. This method can help prevent aspiration pneumonia and keep babies hydrated while they recover from NEC.
  • Probiotics may reduce the risk of developing NEC by improving gut health overall. A recent study from Frontiers Journal on the efficacy of probiotics in preventing stage 2 NEC has revealed a reduction of 43%. The results are obtained from random trials of at least 4,000 preterm babies receiving probiotics. However, more studies must be done before this becomes standard practice among healthcare providers.

In conclusion, the NEC is a severe disease that can lead to death or long-term complications for children. The good news is that you can prevent this condition by becoming guardians against NEC. This means educating yourself about the signs and symptoms of NEC and knowing how to respond in an emergency. If you know someone affected by this disease, reach out with kind words and support so they know they’re not alone.


I'm a technology content writer with a solid track record, boasting over five years of experience in the dynamic field of content marketing. Over the course of my career, I've collaborated with a diverse array of companies, producing a wide spectrum of articles that span industries, ranging from news pieces to technical deep dives.