Warning that the greatest risk of nitrate poisoning occurs in infants who are fed well and consume boring water contaminated with nitrates, doctors in the city have advised physicians to include questions about the home water supply when examining children.

The advisory has been issued after city’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital received a 23-day-old baby which had turned blue and was brought into the hospital’s Department of Neonatology on May 20. The doctors initially thought that the child had a hole in the heart but later found high nitrate content in the baby’s body.

“Till a day prior to admission the baby was well and healthy. On arrival, doctors found that the whole body of the baby was blue in colour including lips, hands, feet, etc. A blood sample of the baby was then treated with oxygen. The idea was that if the cause was heart related then the blood will change its colour from brown to red. It did not happen. His ECHO test was also normal. The other cause would have been if the breast feeding mother was on some medicine like anti-leprosy medication. But that was also not the case,” said a release issued by the hospital on Friday.

Later, the baby’s Methemoglobin level was checked and it was found to be 67 per cent against a normal of less than 1 per cent.

“If the levels of Methemoglobin are more than 80 per cent then the chances of survival are very slim. Doctors used Methyline blue, which has the property to reverse ferric form of the blood to ferrous form. This was given orally to the child. The results were quick and satisfactory and within 12 hours the colour of the baby changed from blue to normal,” noted the release.

Doctors at the hospital explained that the child was been given packaged formula milk which is mixed with underground boring water and the boring water used by the villagers was found to have 27 parts per million of nitrate levels against a normal level of less than 10 p.p.m.

“In all areas, which are near site of usage of pesticides or industrial waste, the underground water should be compulsorily tested for nitrate and other contamination. Infants for whom formula may be prepared with boring or well water remain a high-risk group for nitrate poisoning due to mixing of sewage or fertilizers in the water. This clinical report reinforces the need for testing of ground water for nitrate content,” said a senior doctor at the hospital.

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