About 70 of babies are diagnosed with neonatal jaundice and Parents need not worry when proper care is taken in time.
Jaundice in babies occurs due to the build-up of a yellow pigment, called bilirubin, in their body. When the baby is in the womb, the mother’s placenta helps in eliminating the pigment from the baby’s body. Babies require haemoglobin in the womb to draw oxygen from the mother’s blood. But after birth, this extra haemoglobin in their blood is broken into bilirubin and eliminated from the body via the liver.
The infant’s liver, however, is still immature after birth and is often unable to handle and eliminate the bilirubin on its own. This is the reason many newborns develop jaundice after birth.
Generally, the accumulation of the yellow pigment peaks around the 3rd or 4th day after birth and it starts reducing subsequently.
Reasons for accumulation of yellow pigment:
Blood Group Incompatibilities
Certain other rare conditions like G6DP (glucose 6 phosphate dehydrogenase) deficiency could also be the reason.
Symptoms of jaundice in babies:
Yellow-tinged skin, especially around the face and scalp
A yellow tinge to the white parts of the infant’s eyes
Darker, yellow urine
Pale or light-coloured stools
Is it harmful?
Jaundice in babies is not fatal, but it can be harmful if the levels rise to a high value without supervision or proper treatment. Usually this occurs when serum bilirubin is more than 20-25 mg/dl.
If timely action is taken then jaundice is usually not a cause of worry.
Treatment of Jaundice in Babies
If the bilirubin level is more than the upper tolerance limit for the baby, then phototherapy is recommended.
Phototherapy, or light therapy, is a treatment option which lowers the bilirubin levels in baby’s body. The baby will be placed under a halogen or fluorescent lamp with his or her eyes and genitalia covered. Their skin is thus bleached and the yellow pigment in the body is broken down, which is then excreted via stool or urine. Infants admitted for the phototherapy process are usually discharged within 24-48 hours of admission.
In most instances, jaundice in babies need not be a cause of worry as the condition resolves within 14 days of birth. If jaundice is present beyond 14 days after birth, then it is called persistent or prolonged jaundice in newborn. The child will undergo certain tests to detect the presence of any diseases that may be causing persistent jaundice, and will be treated accordingly.