Jaundice can affect all age groups. It's common in newborn babies and is usually harmless, but it's important to know the signs and symptoms.
It is also a very common condition for newborn babies. It is usually a harmless condition that is caused by the build-up of a chemical (bilirubin) that occurs naturally in the baby’s body.
The build-up of bilirubin causes the baby’s skin to appear yellow in colour and in a similar way their eyes may have a yellow hue. The yellow colour starts with the face and then spreads down the baby’s body.
Generally, bilirubin is removed from the blood by a person’s Liver. It then leaves the body through bowel movements. This happens less effectively for a new-born baby and as a result, their skin takes on a yellow colour due to the chemical building up.
Babies with Jaundice may be sleepy in nature which can lead to difficulties with feeding as they will often fall asleep before they have finished their feed.
A medical professional can usually diagnose jaundice by observing the baby physically. It is usually something that all babies are checked for before being discharged from the hospital.
In the case of a premature baby, the chance of the baby having jaundice is a lot higher. Bilirubin levels can be checked through a small light machine but in more severe cases a blood test is required.
In many cases, Jaundice will simply go away by itself without requiring medical attention. It tends to begin when the baby is 2-3 days old and should clear by the time they are two weeks old. It can take longer when a baby is being breastfed.
In the case of a breastfed baby, the mother will be encouraged to feed the baby as often as possible as this will encourage the Liver to remove Bilirubin from the blood and help it pass.
Phototherapy may also be required depending on the levels detected. Through this therapy, light helps the body to process bilirubin in an easier way so that it can exit the body. If phototherapy is not successful a blood transfusion may be required as untreated Jaundice can lead to a very serious condition that in rare cases can lead to brain damage.
If you are concerned about your baby’s appearance or you notice a high temperature or feeding difficulties it is important to seek medical attention in the form of your PHN, GP or Maternity hospital.