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Treating Jaundice in Healthy Newborns

What is jaundice?

Jaundice is a common condition in newborn infants that usually shows up shortly after birth. In most cases, it goes away on its own. If not, it can be treated easily. Jaundice is caused when bilirubin, which is produced by the body, builds up faster than a newborn’s liver can break it down and get rid of it in the baby’s stool. Too much bilirubin makes a jaundiced baby’s skin look yellow. This yellow color will appear first on the face, then on the chest and stomach, and finally, on the legs. Jaundice can be dangerous if the bilirubin reaches too high a level in the blood. The level at which is becomes dangerous will vary based on a child’s age and if there are other medical conditions.

How do I know if my baby has jaundice?

Parents should be aware of any changes in their newborn’s skin color or the coloring in the whites of their child’s eyes. A quick and easy way to test for jaundice is to press gently with your fingertip on the tip of your child’s nose or forehead. If the skin looks white (this is true for babies of all races), there is no jaundice. If you see a yellowish color, contact your pediatrician to check your baby to see if significant jaundice is present.

How is jaundice treated?

Mild to moderate levels of jaundice do not require any treatment. If high levels of jaundice do not clear up on their own, your baby may be treated with special lights or other treatments. These special lights help get rid of the bilirubin by altering it to make it easier for your baby’s liver to get rid of it. Another treatment is more frequent feedings of breastmilk or formula to help pass the bilirubin out in the stools. Rarely, babies may require treatment of their blood to remove bilirubin. Your pediatrician will give you more details if other treatments are necessary. If your child continues to look yellow after 3 weeks of life, talk to your pediatrician as other tests may need to be done. Remember, jaundice in a healthy newborn is not serious and usually clears up easily.

Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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