Grey Baby Syndrome and Treatment

Grey baby syndrome is a serious condition caused by excessive medication intake during pregnancy. Chloramphenicol is an antibiotic having a bacteriostatic effect (stopping the growth and multiplication of bacteria) on a wide assortment of bacterium so it’s considered to be an antibiotic with wide effectiveness. This is one of the most common reasons for newborns to suffer from the grey baby syndrome. It has a swift effect and may cause the baby to be prematurely born, starting her life with serious medical conditions which can be treated. The first couple of symptoms will include excessive vomiting, limp muscle tone, very low blood pressure and hypothermia. During this period the baby needs to be institutionalized to keep a closer look at vital signs and other possible symptoms which may show additional symptoms and further complications.


This antibiotic is rarely used as a systematic antibiotic due to its potential toxicity. Bacteria might also develop resistance against it due to availability of other drugs. Still, its application may be considered as a therapy for difficult and complicated infections caused by bacteria as well as children over 8. It can also serve as a great alternative for meningitis treatment for patients who have developed resistance against penicillin.

Stomach aches and difficulties are much rarer with chloramphenicol than some other tetracycline substances. The most significant unwanted effect of chloramphenicol is damage done to the bone marrow, manifested as anemia. A rare but exceptional form of damage to the bone marrow may also be manifested as aplasia of the bone marrow which may result in death. This complication doesn’t necessarily depend on the dosage of the medicine and can always occur after a couple of weeks or months after surgery. The cause of this specific complication is unknown but it’s presumed that there are allergic and genetic factors included in this.

Newborns can suffer from the gray baby syndrome which is followed by vomiting, a blue skin tone, issues with breathing and an overall circulatory collapse. Due to the possibility of serious and severe effects, chloramphenicol needs to be used only when there are clear indications that this antibiotic needs to be used and it should never be the main tool for treatment if there are other solutions possible, providing a safer and similar effect.

Interaction with other substances

Chloramphenicol has an interesting characteristic of strengthening up some other medication such as phenytoin and coumarin derivatives. It must never be combined with penicillin as it can oppose and cancel out its anti-bacterial effect. Due to this significant characteristic, you should never consider using chloramphenicol on your own and you need to discuss this with your doctor in detail. Soon after this substance has been implemented into the therapy, it may have a positive effect on some other parts of your body, especially respiratory system.

However, during pregnancy, the substance is definitely not to be recommended, due to its high toxicity and high potential of doing permanent damage to your newborn baby.

About the author

Rani Vyas

Rani Vyas

I'm a Medical Consultant Doctor with a keen interest in Medical bioinformatics and genuinely intriguing way of presenting boring medical knowledge in an enchanting and eye catching way.

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