Jaundice is a common condition that occurs in more than half of all full-term newborns and even more in pre-mature infants. Jaundice is recognized when a baby’s skin and whites of their eyes appear yellow. Babies develop this condition when they are unable to get rid of old red blood cells while replacing them with new ones. When the red blood cells break down, a substance called bilirubin is produced. Jaundice results when too much bilirubin accumulates in the body. This is what causes the yellow shading of the skin. In most cases, jaundice is harmless and easily treated.
Signs of Jaundice
To identify jaundice, it is best to examine your baby under natural light. If you press on your baby’s skin under natural light and notice an underlying yellow tone (before the area turns pink again), jaundice may be present.
Contact your physician immediately if your baby develops the following warning signs of severe jaundice:
- Dehydration (no urine passed in more than 8 hours, dry mouth, poor feeding)
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes within first 24 hours of life
- Yellow shading becomes a deep yellow or orange color
- Fever over 100.4°F
Your doctor may instruct you to treat jaundice by:
- Feeding your baby at least every two to three hours to help increase bowel movements, as this is the primary way to clear bilirubin
- Using phototherapy (blue light that breaks down bilirubin in the skin). In many cases, this can be done in the comfort of your home, by way of a “bili-blanket” or a set of lights shining down on the baby.
Consult with your physician during office hours if your baby:
- Has less than three good-sized bowel movements per day
- Has less than six wet diapers per day
- Does not get rid of the jaundice by day 14
If you suspect your baby has jaundice, consult with your physician. A simple blood test will measure your baby’s bilirubin levels to determine whether or not jaundice is present. As always, call your physician if you have any other questions or concerns.
Boys Town Pediatrics
Jaundice is what we call the yellowish discoloration that you often see in babies' skin or eyes.
It is caused by increased levels of a substance that is called bilirubin in their bodies. And it is something that is commonly seen in newborn babies.
When we see a baby that looks yellow, often times we will do a blood test to see how high the bilirubin level is. A lot of times we end up just having to recheck or follow that number to make sure it does not get to a level that is too high.
If it does require treatment, the most common for that is what we call Bili lights. And most of the time that can be done at home. And so you'll have a couple of days, maybe, where your baby is in a blanket that's got some UV lights. And then we often have nurses coming out to the house to check bilirubin levels and to make sure that number is not getting high and usually trending down.
In very rare cases, we will have to admit babies to the hospital for fluids or phototherapy, which are those lights. It is a very, very common situation to have a baby with jaundice. And for the most part it is something that just resolves on its own.
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