Treatments are only necessary when the patient has extremely high levels of bilirubin in the blood. Most babies suffering from jaundice don’t require treatments because their blood’s bilirubin levels are often low. Under such conditions, the symptoms often improve with a period of two weeks and won’t cause severe injuries to your baby.
If your doctor thinks that treatments aren’t necessary, you may continue breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby. You can also frequently wake them up for feeds whenever necessary. If your child’s condition becomes worse or if it lasts more than two weeks, consult your midwife, general practitioner, or medical specialist. Prolonged newborn jaundice can develop if the baby was born prematurely. However, the condition often improves even without treatment. Nevertheless, additional tests might be recommended if the symptoms last too long.
If your child’s jaundice doesn’t get better over time or tests indicate high bilirubin levels, they might be admitted to a medical center and treated with exchange transfusions or phototherapy. Such treatments help in reducing the risk of developing serious complications like kernicterus that causes severe brain damage.
Phototherapy is a form of treatment that utilizes light. It’s used to lower the levels of bilirubin in the baby’s blood via a process referred to as photo-oxidation. This process supplies more oxygen to the bilirubin so that it dissolves quickly in water. And this makes it possible for the baby’s liver to easily break down and eliminate bilirubin from the blood.
Two Types of Phototherapy
• Conventional phototherapy: in this case, the baby is laid under a fluorescent lamp or a halogen while his/her eyes are covered.
• Fiber optic phototherapy: this is where the baby lies flat on a blanket equipped with fiber optic cables, and then light penetrates through the cables and shines directly onto the baby’s back.
The focus of these techniques is to expose the child’s skin to intense light. Conventional phototherapy is the commonest treatment option for jaundice. If your baby’s condition doesn’t improve after being exposed to fiber optic or conventional phototherapies, a series of phototherapy treatments may be carried out. This involves utilizing multiple light sources and fiber optic blankets at the same time.
During multiple phototherapies, treatments won’t be stopped. Instead, squeezed breast milk might be provided into the child’s stomach intravenously. During this process, the baby’s body temperature is carefully monitored to make sure that they aren’t getting very hot. Thorough checks will also be performed to check for any signs of dehydration. If the symptoms are severe, your baby might need intravenous fluids if they are getting dehydrated and can’t drink sufficient fluids.
An exchange transfusion might be suggested if the patient has extremely high bilirubin levels in the blood. During this procedure, liberal amounts of the patient’s blood are removed by means of thin plastic tubes inserted into the blood vessels located in the legs, umbilical cord, or arms. This blood is then reinstated with the blood extracted from a matching donor.
Since the new blood doesn’t contain bilirubin, the overall bilirubin level in the child’s blood will rapidly fall. The baby will be carefully monitored through the transfusion process that takes a number of hours to complete.
Other jaundice treatments include intravenous immunoglobulin, which is often recommended if the causative agent is a Rhesus (Rh) related disease.