Identifying And Coping With Infant Jaundice

Health & Medical Blog

Jaundice can occur when babies have a high level of a substance known as bilirubin in their blood. Bilirubin causes yellowing of the skin and eyes in infants. Bilirubin is processed by the liver and is produced when red blood cells are broken down. Newborns do not have livers that are well developed, so they cannot process bilirubin very quickly and the result is usually, a yellowing of the skin and eyes, known as jaundice. In most cases, jaundice will usually go away as the liver begins to develop and is able to process bilirubin.

Why do some newborns have a greater risk of developing severe jaundice?

There are some newborns that are at risk for developing severe jaundice, babies that are born before 38 weeks of gestation are at a greater risk because they are premature. Premature babies have extremely underdeveloped livers and are even more susceptible to jaundice than babies that are not born premature. Babies who have a blood type that is incompatible with their mother's blood type are also more prone to developing severe jaundice. This is because the baby's body may produce antibodies that destroy or damage red blood cells, which will result in a rise in bilirubin levels at birth.

When should parents become concerned?

Jaundice can be dangerous if bilirubin levels rise so severely that the bilirubin is able to get into the baby's brain. When bilirubin gets into the brain, it can cause the infant to suffer severe brain damage. This is why parents should be on the lookout for signs that jaundice is getting worse. Here are some signs parents can look out for to see if their baby's bilirubin levels are rising.

  1. If yellowing worsens, then parents should contact a doctor immediately. Extremely yellow eyes, lips and skin are a sign that bilirubin levels are increasing, and it needs to be stopped or reduced before it gets into the baby's brain.
  2. A fever that is higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, accompanied by severe yellowing of the skin and eyes, requires immediate medical attention.
  3. Loud cries, listlessness and generally lethargy are also signs that jaundice may be getting worse, and that parents should contact their doctor immediately.

Being alert is the best thing any parent can do. Mothers and babies are usually discharged from the hospital after 72 hours of delivery. Bilirubin levels will take about three to seven days to start increasing. Pay attention to a newborn's eyes and skin is the best approach any parent can take. If there is a noticeable yellowing of eyes and skin, then a baby clinic like Mundelein Pediatrics should be contacted immediately.


5 February 2015

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