Jaundice is fairly common occurrence among newborn babies. Under normal circumstances, this is a temporary condition and is cured without any treatment. It also has no long-term effects. Thus it should not be a cause of immediate panic to the baby’s parents. However, if left untreated or if Jaundice continues beyond two weeks, it might lead to serious trouble for the baby by affecting the brain.
What is Jaundice
- Often people do not have a clear concept about the jaundice that affects babies and the one that affects adults; the latter is due to infection that affects the functions of the liver.
- Jaundice is medically known as hyperbilirubinemia, which is a condition where there is excess bilirubin in the blood and this causes the skin to appear yellow.
- Bilirubin is a waste product in the body produced due to the normal breakdown of old red blood cells. Under normal conditions, the bilirubin travels to liver and is removed through the bile duct.
Causes of Jaundice in Newborn Babies
In newborn children, Jaundice develops after one or two days of delivery.
- Prior to birth, the baby gets the blood from the mother. The mother’s liver processes the bilirubin. However, immediately after birth when the umbilical cord is disconnected.
- A newborn baby’s liver is not developed enough to take care of the bilirubin in the blood. The excess bilirubin build-up in the blood causes jaundice. In most cases this is a temporary condition and clears off without requiring any treatment.
- Apart from the natural cause of delay in the proper functioning of liver in the newborn, there can be some other causes for jaundice, such as incompatibility of blood group. Also, it can be due to the medicines used during pregnancy and delivery.
Symptoms of Jaundice
- In the hospital a newborn child is routinely observed for any onset of infantile jaundice.
- The most obvious symptom is the yellowness on the face of the child.
- Jaundice in a newborn baby manifests itself by the yellow color in the skin.
- Yellowish color is first noticed on the face of the baby. It may later spread to chest, abdomen, arms and legs, and whites of the babies eyes turn yellow.
If the child has been taken home after being discharged from the hospital, then apart from the tell-tale sign of yellowness in the skin.
- one should also check for certain other symptoms such as; fever, drowsiness, dullness or lethargic, clayish or whitish color of stool, darker color of urine and whether the baby is feeding well.
Diagnosis of Jaundice
Jaundice can easily be diagnosed under light from the yellow coloring of the skin. The face and the whites of the eyes look yellow, and the yellow color spreads later to chest, abdomen, arms and legs.
Apart from the examination of skin, a blood test is often done to determine the bilirubin level. Bilirubin level of less than 5 mg per deciliter (mg/dL) is considered normal, and more than 5 mg/dL is considered elevated. In case the level exceeds 15 mg/dL the doctors prescribes therapy.
Treatment of Jaundice
- In the hospital, photo-therapy is given to the child. Ultraviolet light reacts with bilirubin and eliminates excess without the need for it to pass through the liver. Only in rare cases of severe jaundice, blood transfusion may be required.
- At home the baby should be kept in a well-illuminated room. Care should be taken that the light is placed behind and above the baby.
- The baby should get as much natural sunlight as possible without getting exposed to cold, harsh wind or pollution.
- The exposure should not be more than 5-10 minutes to avoid sun-burn on the delicate skin. The best way is to sit with the baby besides a closed glass window inside the room.
- In case the jaundice continues for more than a week, expert medical advice should be sought.
Some Common Myths Associated with Jaundice
After knowing the facts, it would also be wise to reflect and be careful of some of the myths relating to jaundice.
Myth:The most popular myth is that the mother must avoid eating turmeric, yellowish food stuffs when the baby has jaundice.
Fact :The truth is that there is no such evidence to suggest that eating yellow colored foods or drinks taken by mother can cause jaundice in the child.
Myth : Mother must avoid yellow clothing when she is feeding her baby.
Fact:There is no truth in this statement as the color of clothing cannot cause jaundice in a baby.
However, the belief that sun rays help to treat jaundice, is correct. Photo-therapy, which is done by exposure to light, helps break-down excess bilirubin.