According to an article, “Infant Jaundice,” published by the staff at Mayo Clinic, infant jaundice is a yellow discoloration in a newborn’s skin and eyes. Infant jaundice occurs when the baby’s blood contains an excessive amount of bilirubin, a yellow-colored pigment of red blood cells.
Jaundice is a common condition particularly in babies born prematurely due to the undeveloped liver’s inability to rid the body of bilirubin in the bloodstream. Sometimes jaundice may be brought on by diseases or conditions like internal bleeding, sepsis, viral or bacterial infections, an incompatibility between the mother’s blood and the infant, a liver malfunction, an enzyme deficiency, or an abnormality causing red blood cells to break. In very rare instances of a complication, bilirubin levels relating to severe jaundice can could cause brain damage. Jaundice usually appears between two or three days post birth.
You can check for jaundice by pressing gently against your baby’s forehead or nose. If the skin appears yellow where you’ve applied light pressure, your baby could have jaundice. Other tests may be necessary to check for jaundice such as a physical exam conducted by a healthcare professional, a blood test, or a skin test involving a transcutaneous bilirubinometer, which measures the reflection of a special light shone through the skin.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for newborns to be examined for jaundice during routine medical exams and in eight to twelve hour increments while in the hospital. The AAP also recommends an additional jaundice exam between three and seven days after birth when bilirubin levels usually peak. If your baby is discharged prior to 72 hours after delivery, you can schedule a follow up appointment to look for jaundice within two days after departure.
Symptoms of severe jaundice include: a more yellow appearance of the skin, the whites of your baby’s eyes appearing yellow, baby seems listless or sick, is difficult to awaken, low weight gain, high-pitched cries, or jaundice extends beyond three weeks. Treatment is often unnecessary, but when treatment is required, noninvasive measures are generally adequate. Treatment of severe jaundice may include light therapy, which involves exposing the infant to light emissions in the blue-green spectrum, intended to change the bilirubin molecular structure for excretion via urine and stool. In other instances exchange transfusions are utilized to treat severe jaundice. However, less severe jaundice is often treated by altering an infant’s feeding regimen or frequency. An increase in feeding intervals or quantity can induce more bowel movements and expel bilirubin from the body.
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