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Jaundice In Infants: Explained in a very easy way.

Jaundice in infants is very common and normal, usually, it appears within the 3-4 days after the birth. In case of premature birth, it can take 5-7 days to appear. It is the yellow color seen in the eyes of many newborns. It occurs due to the rise in chemical called bilirubin that builds up in the baby’s blood.

In this article we will cover

  • Prevalence of Jaundice in infants
  • Symptoms of jaundice in newborn
  • Jaundice Test at Home
  • Causes of jaundice in infants
  • Treatment of jaundice in infants
  • Jaundice in infants when to worry
  • Can jaundice in infants be prevented?
  • Instances for which worry should occur
  • Conclusion

1. Prevalence of Jaundice in infants

Though jaundice is normal to happen after birth, it is still very necessary to treat it. almost every baby suffers from it after birth. Still, it is very necessary to treat it. Jaundice causes risks if there is no treatment on time. Jaundice puts the life of infant in danger too. Some hospitals discharge the baby after checking jaundice depending upon the severity of it.

2. Symptoms of jaundice in newborn

An infant looks and behave normal even though he /she is suffering from jaundice but some of the apparent symptoms of jaundice in newborn are as follows:

  • The skin becomes yellow if there is jaundice in infants.
  • The Infant looks weak and sick.
  • The white area of the eyes becomes yellow.
  • In severe conditions, infants cry a lot.
  • The baby does not feed properly, which in turn make him/her not gain weight
  • Jaundice in infants makes him sleep more than the normal routine.
  • If the newborn has a fever over 100°F (38°C) then it is alarming and you need to test jaundice. 
  • The color of urine is dark yellow. (Normal is colorless)
  • The color of stool is pale. (Normal is yellow or orange)

If any of the above mentioned symptoms are observed in your baby you should contact your doctor.

3. Jaundice Test at Home

It is very easy to conduct a jaundice test at home, but still make sure you are doing it in a proper lighting room or in natural light. 

A mother is releasing the skin of a new born after pressing to check the jaundice in infant.

Simply, you need to press the skin (forehead/nose) of the newborn lightly and then release it, if the color of the skin becomes yellow from where you pressed then the infant is suffering from jaundice. On the other hand, if the skin color becomes white or little different from the normal color then the infant is fine and there is no jaundice in the infant. Otherwise, doctors recommend blood tests to diagnose jaundice in infants and to check the level of bilirubin in the body of the baby. 

4. Causes of jaundice in infants

An infant observes so many changes as he/she arrives in the world in terms of environment, people, voices, and taste. When an infant observes all these changes then his/her body reacts accordingly and his blood also gets changed.

Red blood cells break down to form new blood and during this process, a yellow pigment is released named bilirubin. This bilirubin is responsible for the pale color during jaundice. It is obvious that jaundice appears in an infant due to a change of blood. So, the treatment of it is so important to save the life of an infant.      

The change of blood from before birth to the after birth is a major cause of jaundice in infants. But there can also be some other reasons which should be in the knowledge of parents of a newborn.  

  • Malfunctioning of liver.
  • Loss of fluid or dehydration can also cause jaundice in infants.
  • Infection in blood.
  • Deficiency of any enzyme.
  • Any kind of abnormality in the red blood cells of newborn.
  • Biliary atresia.
  • Premature birth.
  • Bruising at birth.
  • Incompatibility in mother and baby’s blood groups.

5. Treatment of jaundice in infants

Treatment of jaundice in infants varies depending upon the severity of jaundice. If the jaundice is low to mild level it will go away on its own as the liver of the baby starts to mature. In any case, talk to your doctor, midwife or health advisor to find out what sort of, if any, treatment is needed.

Here is the list of treatment of jaundice in infants

  • Breastfeeding
  • Natural treatment
  • Phototherapy as treatment of jaundice in infants
  • Blood exchange

Breastfeed

One of the most common and natural treatments is to breastfeed your infant. It is a natural remedy which nature has provided to treat this illness. I personally experienced if you keep your infant totally on breastfeed then yellow pigments start to vanish automatically through stool.

if your doctor hasn’t prescribed any other treatment then keep on feeding your baby frequently like 10-12 times a day. If in 10-14 days you do not see the condition getting better then contact your doctor again.

an infant is taking breastfeed

An infant need feed right after he/she passes urine or stool. A healthy infant takes around 15-20 minutes every time to fill his/her stomach. So, mothers must take a lot of care about their diet and take plenty of healthy liquid. This will help their bodies to generate adequate amount of milk without causing any weakness.  

Natural Treatment

If you want to remove the jaundice in infants then you must take your kid in the natural sunlight. Give a sun bath with fewer or no clothes, it helps a lot to treat the jaundice. Those people who are living in very warm areas of the world they must give sunbath to infants with early rising sun rays and with late mean sunset rays.

Phototherapy as treatment of jaundice in infants

Phototherapy is used to treat jaundice in newborns. In this process a special light (not sunlight) is used to lower down the level of bilirubin in the blood of the baby. This process is called photo-oxidation. Through this process oxygen is added to the bilirubin to dissolve it into the water easily.

A newborn is lying in the hospital with no clothes for phototherapy so that jaundice in infant can be removed.   

According to this method infants lay with little or no clothes under the special lights. These lights convert bilirubin into water. Water easily passes out from the body of the baby. This puts the life of the baby out of danger.

Doctors usually stop the process after every 3 or 4 hours. This takes about half an hour every time. Mothers feed the baby, change their diapers or spend time with them at that time.

Sometimes babies experience dehydration during the process. Doctors use drips to put extra fluids inside the babies’ bodies. Drips are small plastic tubes. Doctors use them on the arm, foot or hand of the babies.

There are two types of therapies. One is conventional therapy. Second is fiberoptic therapy. Doctors use fiberoptic therapy for premature babies. They use conventional therapy for normal babies.

Doctors almost always use an additional blood test on the baby at the end of the therapy. This tells about the present level of bilirubin after therapy. After that, you will be able to take them home.

Blood Exchange

Doctors choose “blood exchange” for unusually high levels of bilirubin in the baby’s body. In this technique, a donor donates healthy blood to the newborn. By doing this way, the level of bilirubin in the baby’s body is reduced so that he/she can survive.

Normally within 2 hours of treatment a blood test is taken to see if the bilirubin level has gone down. If not, the process may need to be repeated.

6. In Severe Situations

In a severe situation the infant has to stay in the hospital. So that doctors can monitor the situation properly. Doctors will do further checkups and tests to reach the cause of jaundice in infant.

Once the doctor reaches the root cause of jaundice in an infant they will do their best to finish it to save a life. A few weeks is usually the time a doctor needs for the whole process. 

Kernicterus

Kernicterus is a very serious complication that occurs in severe cases. This happens when there is no proper treatment. The reason is that excess bilirubin damages the brain or central nervous system.

Another name of the brain damage caused by excess levels of bilirubin is bilirubin encephalopathy.

Some serious and permanent  issues such as:

  • Improver development of teeth
  • Hearing disabilities
  • Problem in movement and co-ordination (Cerebral palsy)

arises if there is no proper treatment.

7. Prevention of jaundice in newborns

A lot of people ask how to reduce jaundice in newborn babies or how to stop jaundice in babies but there is no proven way to prevent jaundice in newborns.

What can be done, is to take the blood test of the mother during pregnancy and as soon as the baby is born take his/her blood test. This way blood group incompatibility can be checked very quickly, which is one of the causes of jaundice in newborns.

There are some natural ways to stop the jaundice getting severe

  • Proper nutrition is provided to the baby through breastfeeding. With 8-12 times feeding, baby won’t get dehydrated which in turn quickens the passage of bilirubin through the body.
  • As the mother is breastfeeding, she should be on a proper diet.
  • Give your baby 1-2 ounces of formula every 2-3 hours for the first week. If the baby is also taking breastfeed or if the baby was preterm he/she will take less amount of formula.

8. How long jaundice last in newborn?

Normally it takes two to three weeks for mild level jaundice to disappears. It also depends if you are breastfeeding or formula feeding.

For breastfed babies, jaundice may last up to one month and for formula fed babies jaundice normally last for 2 weeks.

If the symptoms discussed in this article do not go away in a month then talk to your doctor.

9. Instances when worry should occur

In some cases jaundice can be more serious for newborns such as:

  • Blood group of the baby is incompatible with the mother.
  • jaundice has moved to other parts of the body, like arms and legs.
  • Birth was premature, born before 37 weeks.
  • Weight at the time of birth is less than 5.5 lbs.
  • Within 24 hours after birth, jaundice happens.
  • Siblings had to go through blood exchange to treat jaundice.

Conclusion

Infant is the beginning of all kinds of things like hope, wonder and even new possibilities. An infant is a very precious being, emotionally unstable and a quite delicate creature. A newborn needs sweet and extra care.

Talking about care there is a heavy duty on the shoulders of the primary caregiver, as the newborn is very resilient to so many diseases and jaundice is on top among all.

But as we have discussed in detail about causes, treatments and some preventions related to jaundice in infants, parents should not panic and contact their doctors as soon as possible.

Its estimated that 6 out of every 10 babies get jaundice but only 1 in 20 need medical treatment.

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About The Author

Qurratulain Nabeel

This is QURRATULAIN - an M.Phil in Applied Psychology. Being a mother of two I tried to put my knowledge into practice, which proved very beneficial for me. By using the platform of Mychildwellbeing.com I am so pleased to share my experience with people all around the world.

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