Babies A to Z


The soft downy hair that covers some premature infants is called lanugo or vellus hair. Lanugo normally covers a foetus until shortly before birth.


Laryngitis is an infection of the larynx (voice box or Adam's apple) at the front of the throat, which contains the vocal cords that are responsible for speech. Hoarseness or total loss of voice may occur, with associated pain, difficulty in swallowing, a dry cough and a fever. Almost invariably it is a viral infection and cannot be cured by antibiotics. Time, voice rest, aspirin and other anti-inflammatory medications are used to reduce inflammation and swelling of the vocal cords, and to ease the fever.

Recurrent attacks may cause small nodules to form on the vocal cords, and huskiness in later life.

Complete recovery after five to ten days is usual.


Listeriosis is a rare form of meningitis (infection of the membranes surrounding the brain) in newborn babies caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes that can be caught from contaminated food, particularly soft cheeses (eg. brie, camembert), cold meats (eg. salami, paté), cold seafood (eg. sushi, prawns) and salads.

In adults and children, the bacteria usually causes no symptoms and is harmless, but if a pregnant woman is infected, the bacteria may spread through her bloodstream to the placenta and foetus, where it may cause widespread infection, miscarriage, or death of the foetus and a stillbirth.

Antibiotics can be used in newborn infants, but they are often not successful. Treatment is more successful if started during pregnancy, but the infection is rarely detected before the infant is born. Infants that survive birth suffer from a form of septicaemia (blood infection) that soon progresses to a form of meningitis that is frequently fatal.


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