Collodion Babies or Plastic Babies
The collodion baby is a descriptive term for the infant who is born encased in a tight shiny membrane that resembles plastic wrap. The skin resembles a yellow, tight and shiny film or dried collodion (sausage skin). These babies are often premature. Collodion babies are also known as plastic babies. This is a very rare disease and is found in who are often premature one among every six lakh babies.
The collodion membrane undergoes desquamation or peeling, which is usually complete by 2 to 3 weeks of life. This reveals the underlying skin disorder.
The collodion membrane is due to abnormal desquamation (a peeling process). It is due to mutation of certain genes and is usually an autosomal recessive, congenital ichthyosis (scaly skin condition). However 10% of collodion babies have normal underlying skin – a mild presentation known as ‘self-healing’ collodion baby.
Collodion babies are at high risk of some complications. The cracking and peeling of the membrane increase the risk of infection from microorganisms. These infants are also at risk for fluid loss, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, body temperature instability, and pneumonia.
Collodion babies should be placed in a high humidity chamber, and monitored closely for complications. A high humidity environment will allow slow, gradual sloughing off of the membrane. The membrane will come off on its own and should not be peeled off. Application of mild petroleum-based moisturizers may help the infant feel more comfortable while the membrane is peeling off.